Report: South Korea Bans Over 27,000 BMWs From its Roads

After a wave of engine fires, the South Korean government wants every at-risk vehicle inspected before they can be driven again.

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South Korea's Ministry of Transportation announced Tuesday that it will place a moratorium on driving un-inspected BMW vehicles due to a high risk of engine fires.

This follows an August 3 advisory against driving potentially affected vehicles, according to Nikkei Asian Review, and has now developed into a first-ever ban from driving vehicles at risk. Of 106,317 affected BMWs in the country, 27,246 were reportedly not yet inspected as of Monday, and owners of these vehicles will receive notices via mail urging them to have their vehicles checked out.

The driving ban takes effect once owners receive government notice, and those that ignore the ministry's driving ban can be punished with up to a year's imprisonment, and a ₩10 million (almost $8,900) fine. Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee reportedly said that punishment will likely be lighter for most drivers and will instead result in a warning in most cases.

A total of 38 BMW vehicles have reportedly caught fire in South Korea during 2018 alone, according to Aju Business Daily. The source of the fires is thought to be a problem within the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) coolers of diesel vehicles, which can clog too easily with sediment, increasing the temperature of exhaust gases entering the intake manifold. BMW apologized for the issue last week, but the transport ministry is now suspicious that the EGR problem could be related to software meant to cheat emissions and is investigating the matter.

BMW issued a widespread fire risk recall in the U.S. last November for two major faults, affecting a combined million-plus vehicles. It also recalled about 30,000 i3 hybrids last year for an issue that likely impacted only one owner, but the recalls have done little to dissuade customers from buying more Bimmers—the automaker is steaming toward another year of record sales.