BMW Recalls Some Turbo-Charged Cars Following ABC News Investigation

Some turbo-charged cars may have defective fuel pumps, company says.

ByABC News
October 25, 2010, 10:49 PM

Oct. 26, 2010 — -- BMW has issued a voluntary recall of some 130,000 vehicles that are equipped with twin-turbo engines just hours after ABC News aired a report on its investigation into potential problems concerning the fuel pumps in such vehicles.

The German car manufacturer said the recall involves approximately 130,000 vehicles from some 2007 models to 2010 models which "may experience a failure of the high-pressure fuel pump." Failure of the fuel pump could result in "reduced engine performance," the carmaker said.

BMW said about 40,000 of the vehicles are expected to require a new, high-pressure fuel pump.

Affected models include the 2007 to 2010 335i series, the 2008 to 2010 135i, 535i and X6 xDrive35i Sports Activity Coupes and the 2009 to 2010 Z4 Roadster sDrive35i.

In a separate action, BMW announced that it is recalling more than 20,000 2008 X5 Sports Activity Vehicles that use low-pressure fuel pumps.

"In this case, should the fuel pump experience a failure, the engine will stop running and the driver will lose power assist for the steering and brakes although both the steering and the brakes remain operational," BMW said of the 2008 X5 in a statement.

Owners of BMW vehicles affected by the recall will be notified by letter which will request the scheduling of a service appointment to have the fuel pump update performed, the company said.

CLICK HERE to download BMW's statement announcing the recall.

In a driveway in central New Jersey sits a 300-horsepower BMW, a $40,000 turbocharged dynamo that is rarely driven because its owners say it is unsafe.

The car has a defective high-pressure fuel pump that can cause it to shake, vibrate and unexpectedly slow down while driving, BMW driver Michael Noone told ABC News.

"We really don't have confidence in the car anymore," said Noone, who leased it in 2008 as a graduation gift for his 25-year-old daughter Jennifer.

BMW introduced its new line of turbo vehicles four years ago to much fanfare. Designed for the well-heeled driving enthusiast, the company said, their sleek convertibles and sedans are sporty and luxurious. They are advertised as the "ultimate driving machine."

"I loved the color, I loved the model, I thought it was really hip and edgy," Jennifer Noone said.

Shortly after driving home her dream car, Jennifer Noone said she began experiencing problems that frightened her.

"It was really jittery and shaking and it was scary, shaking so bad and hesitating and all the lights were going on in the car. So I pulled over and I got really nervous on the side of the road. So I called my dad to pick me up because I was afraid to drive it. I thought it was going to blow up or something," she said.

When her father drove the car, he, too, said he found a troubling issue.

"And then I tried to accelerate one time to go by another car and it didn't have the power. It hesitated very badly. So I can only feel that if this was on the highway, this could be a very deadly situation."

A month-long investigation by ABC News has found that Noone's experience is far from unique. BMW and federal safety regulators have received hundreds of similar complaints from owners of 2007 to 2009 BMWs with the powerful N54 twin-turbocharged engine, but little was done to alert drivers. Among the models that could be affected are the twin-turbocharged models of the 135, 335 and 535 series as well as certain Z-4 Roadsters and X-6 SUVs.

Allison Mangot, a former BMW owner, described her experience: "The car started shaking, back-firing. We had no idea what was going on. It's very, very, very scary."

BMW attributes the problem to the high-pressure pump that feeds fuel to the motor. When it fails or falters, the car can suddenly go to a reduced power or what the company calls "limp safety mode."

"When that high-pressure pump on the engine fails, the vehicle goes into what we call a safe mode, which means that you have power steering, power brakes but you don't have as much power and that can be startling for some people," Tom Baloga, BMW of North America's chief engineer, told ABC News.

When pressed about how safe this so-called "limp" or "safe mode" really is -- given the frightening experiences described by some drivers -- Baloga said "it's unfortunate that the failure of the pump caused that feelings and we certainly can sympathize with that. People have different expectations."