Class action suit alleges BMW N54 turbo engine unsafe, causes Unintended Deceleration — Autoblog
The award-winning BMW N54 inline-six has been a hit around the world since it made its debut in the 2006 E90 335i. The twin-turbocharged engine produces around 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque and many have actually suggested that the Bavarian automaker's power figures have been conservative. When it came out, BMW promised this engine would virtually eliminate turbo lag, increase performance and improve fuel economy at the same time. In fact, it was so confident in its new engine that it spread it around, adding it to its 1, 3 and 5 Series cars, along with its Z4 sports cars and X6 crossovers.
Unfortunately, the N54 has also seen its fair share of owner complaints. Most notably, unhappy BMW drivers allege having two very important issues with the w?ndermill; the high-pressure fuel pump has a very high failure rate and a defect in the design of the turbochargers requires they be tweaked so as not to run at full capacity. Many BMW owners have officially had it with the N54 engine and a class-action lawsuit has kicked into gear.
The lawsuit, initiated by the legal firm of Kershaw, Cutter and Ratinoff, LLC of California alleges that BMW produced an engine which suffers from serious defects. The aforementioned fuel pump is evidently prone to failure, and when they go south, the car loses power and goes into 'limp mode' since it can't drink gasoline. Such failures could have serious safety ramifications depending on when and where the pump packs up. According to Autoblog sister site Daily Finance, this isn't the first lawsuit regarding N54 problems.
According to the law firm, the problem with the turbochargers is that defective examples cannot run at full capacity, resulting in strange noises underhood and noticeable throttle lag. BMW had initiated a software update, which made it so the turbochargers were "fixed," but apparently all they did was stop the turbos from being allowed to run at full tilt. This, in turn, resulted in a loss of power and noticeable lag, one of the very issues the N54's architecture was designed to eliminate.
Among other details, the KC&L class action (official press release below) alleges that BMW knowingly hid these defects not just from customers, but also from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the suit is looking to legally compel BMW into a recall.
BMW officials that Autoblog contacted for this story noted that the company cannot comment on pending litigation, but they did offer us the following statement:
BMW has discovered that certain 2007-2010 model year vehicles may experience partial failure of the High-Pressure Fuel Pump (HPFP) which is part of the direct fuel injection system on certain 1 Series, 3 Series, 5 Series, X6, and Z4 models. Specifically, vehicles powered by the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine (internally dubbed "N54") are affected. Symptoms include long engine starting times and sometimes the illumination of the Service Engine Soon lamp in the instrument cluster, possibly accompanied by reduced engine performance (Fail Safe operation).
As a result, BMW will extend the emissions warranty coverage period to 10 years or 120,000 miles, whichever comes first, on affected vehicles in all 50 States. If the HPFP fails during the extended warranty coverage period, BMW will replace it with a newer-production version. Customers who experience long starting times or notice the Service Engine Soon lamp should contact an Authorized BMW Center to schedule a service appointment. Customers with further questions should contact BMW Customer Relations at 1-800-831-1117 or email email@example.com.
It's worth noting that while BMW acknowledges problems with the N54's fuel pump and is offering affected owners an extended emissions warranty, the additional coverage does not appear to extend to other areas of the engine. In regards to the turbocharger, BMW spokesman Matthew Russell says that:
The turbo complaint is much less widespread and we have had a service bulletin in place since 2007 to address it. In an effort to address specific noise concerns, BMW updated the turbocharged engine software on 335i/xi and 535i/xi models built from June 2006 through March 2008. The updated software causes a small amount of increased "turbocharger lag" under certain circumstances and, while not substantial, the lag may be perceptible to the most sensitive BMW drivers. X6, 135i, and 3 Series/5 Series vehicles from March 2008 production onward are not affected."
Class Action Law Firm takes on BMW for Systematically Concealing Safety Risks of Defective High Pressure Fuel Pumps and Turbo Chargers
The lawsuit alleges that BMW systematically concealed information from the public and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding defective fuel pumps and their risks to consumers.
Flawed engine design of BMW twin turbo models leaves consumers stranded
Sacramento, CA (Vocus) October 5, 2010
Sacramento, California based class action law firm Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff, LLP, recently filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of individuals who own various BMW vehicles released between the years of 2007-2010. The lawsuit, No. CV10-2257 SI filed in the Northern District of California, seeks to compel BMW to initiate a recall in order to replace all of the high pressure fuel pumps (HPFP) in the affected vehicles.
According to the complaint, in 2006, BMW announced with much fanfare the development of its new N54 twin turbo engine. BMW touted the new engine as incorporating state of the art technology that included dual turbo chargers and a newly developed fuel injection system. BMW represented to the public that this new technology would eliminate 'turbo lag,' a common problem in turbocharged vehicles, and that its new state of the art fuel injection system greatly increased the performance and fuel efficiency of its vehicles.
Plaintiffs allege that the new engines that were so highly touted by BMW in fact contain serious design flaws that render the vehicles unsafe to drive. There are essentially two design flaws at the center of the case. First, the plaintiff asserts that BMW's new fuel injection system that supposedly incorporates a new 'state of the art' fuel pump actually malfunctions at an alarming high rate. As a result, many BMW owners have had to repeatedly replace their fuel pumps, sometimes within 1,000 miles of vehicle ownership.
Lead attorney on the case, Stuart Talley of Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff, noted, "When these fuel pumps fail, the car comes to a complete stop or loses substantial power. If this happens while someone is driving on a highway at high speeds, this can create a very serious safety hazard. We believe the defect is so significant that it makes these cars unsafe to drive."
The second problem relates to the BMW turbo chargers. Specifically, the complaint alleges that owners of the affected vehicles were told that BMW's new engine had eliminated 'turbo lag.' 'Turbo lag' is the delay between the time that driver of a vehicle presses the accelerator and the time that turbo chargers on the engine essentially 'kick in' to provide added power to the engine. However, shortly after the vehicles were released, BMW began to receive complaints from owners that they were hearing strange noises from the engine along with a delay in throttle response. BMW eventually discovered that these problems were the result of a design defect in the turbo chargers.
Plaintiffs allege, however, that rather than repair the defective turbo chargers, BMW implemented a secret 'software fix' to hide the problems from consumers. Any time a consumer brought their BMW in for repair or routine maintenance, BMW would 'upgrade' the vehicle's software. This software tweak kept the turbo chargers from operating at full capacity, ensuring that their defects would go undetected.
Apparently owners aren't happy. A number of user generated forums, petitions and blogs have cropped up criticizing BMW for their handling of the issue. On the BMW Blog, several consumers reported their BMW's going into 'limp mode.' They also complained of excessive power loss and 'turbo lag,' the very condition BMW said it had eliminated with its 'state of the art engine.' The plaintiff's complaint seeks to force BMW to repair the defective turbo charges and/or reimburse consumers for the diminution in value to the vehicles.
Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff have demonstrated their dedication to protecting the legal rights of consumers, as well as their ability to devote substantial resources through trials involving large corporations. Their product liability lawyers have represented thousands of victims of defective vehicles and dangerous products in cases throughout the United States, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuit recoveries for their clients and the classes they have represented.