Regulators Investigating BMW’s Slow Recall Pace After Vehicles Failed Side Crash Tests

Just two months after federal regulators fined Fiat Chrysler a record $105 million as a result of a lengthy investigation into the carmaker’s leisurely pace in fixing more than 11 million vehicles connected to 23 safety recalls, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is poised to take another manufacturer to task: BMW.

NHTSA announced that it will open an investigation into whether BMW failed to recall more than 30,000 Mini Cooper cars in a timely fashion after certain models did not meet side impact crash standards.

According to a notice [PDF], investigators will probe 30,456 model year 2014 to 2015 Mini Cooper, Cooper S and 2015 John Cooper Works vehicle after side impact crash tests on two 2014 Mini Hardtop 2 Door Coopers showed failures more than a year ago.

The test, which happened in mid-2014, was performed at five miles per hour faster than required by law on two Mini Cooper cars. The tests, which measured spine acceleration results on a crash dummy, showed that the vehicles were not adequate.

“NHTSA viewed these results as indicating a potential problem and believes BMW should also have been concerned with the compliance of the vehicles,” the notice states.

In October 2014, NHTSA performed another test on a 2014 Mini 2 Door Hardtop Cooper; it once again did not pass.

At the time, BMW claimed the certification testing was based on a different model – a Mini 2 Door Hardtop Cooper S, a heavier vehicle.

Still, in December, the car company issued a recall for 2014 Mini Hardtop 2 Door Cooper vehicles, creating a remedy that involved installing a small foam patch in the rear door panels.

In January, NHTSA claims in the notice,  BMW verbally committed to conducting a service campaign to add padding to the read side panels of 2015 Mini Hardtop 2 Door Coopers.

“However, BMW did not initiate the service campaign and failed to inform NHTSA of its failure to do so,” the notice states.

NHTSA completed tests in July 2015 on model year 2015 Mini 2 Door Hardtop Coopers. One of the vehicles included a contemplated fix – a foam pad on the rear panels – while the other vehicle was no modified from factory settings.

“The test of the Mini 2 Door Hardtop Cooper with the additional padding and at the higher test weight passed the test,” NHTSA states in the notice. “However, this was the only vehicle on which the service campaign was performed and thus was not representative of in-use vehicles.”

The vehicle without the potential remedy did not pass. Additionally, a test of a 2015 Cooper S that did not receive additional padding at the test failed.

“NHTSA is concerned that BMW was aware or should have been aware of the non-compliance,” the agency states, “and should have taken remedial action on the population of Mini Cooper vehicles identified in [the original recall] earlier than it did. It appears from a review of NHTSA’s databases that BMW may have failed to submit recall communications to NHTSA in a timely manner.”