Why is South Korea temporarily banning BMW cars from its roads?
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Why is South Korea temporarily banning BMW cars from its roads?

BMW luxury car owners in South Korea have in recent months been reporting of engine fires destroying their vehicles, prompting the government to impose a temporary street ban on automobiles yet to pass safety checks.

On Thursday, South Korean police raided the German carmaker’s Seoul headquarters to investigate whether the company had covered up vehicle defects, and also confiscated documents and other materials, according to the AFP.

An official at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s white collar crime unit declined to give further details but Yonhap news agency said a team of 30 investigators were involved. There was no immediate comment from BMW Korea.

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“We will conduct a thorough investigation to reveal the truth,” Yonhap quoted a police official as saying.

The raid comes amid reports that over 40 BMW vehicles — mostly the 520d sedan model — burst into flames this year alone. The cases have led to some car parks refusing to accept BMW vehicles over concerns that they may catch fire.

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Johann Ebenbichler, vice president of BMW for quality, talks about the company’s recall during a press conference at a hotel in Seoul on August 6, 2018. Source: AFP

Last month, BMW Korea recalled 106,000 vehicles with an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) module, which it believes caused the fires. The recall involved 42 models, all with diesel engines.

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Earlier, BMW apologised for the fires and blamed a faulty component that was aimed at reducing emissions from diesel engines.

The apology, however, has done little to allay the concerns of angry consumers, who say the firm should have issued the recall sooner.

Johann Ebenbichler, vice head of BMW in charge of quality, said the company became aware of a problem with the component in 2016 but managed to identify the root cause of the fires only in June this year. He did not provide further details.