The Truth About Cars » Car fires http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:07:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Car fires http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Acura NSX Prototype Flame Broiled on Burgerkingring http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/acura-nsx-prototype-flame-broiled-on-burgerkingring/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/acura-nsx-prototype-flame-broiled-on-burgerkingring/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:35:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872898 It’s been years now since Honda introduced a new generation Acura NSX as a concept and it looks like it may take even more time to reach production since the prototype that was recently spotted testing at the Nurburgring circuit has been pretty much destroyed, apparently the victim of an engine compartment fire.   The […]

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It’s been years now since Honda introduced a new generation Acura NSX as a concept and it looks like it may take even more time to reach production since the prototype that was recently spotted testing at the Nurburgring circuit has been pretty much destroyed, apparently the victim of an engine compartment fire.

 

The fire looks to have been unrelated to the electric drive that powers the all-wheel-drive hybrid supercar’s front wheels. Germany’s Motor Talk reports that the test drivers were able to exit the car without injury but that the NSX prototype appears to be a complete write-off. Though Honda would not comment, a photographer who witnessed the incident said that the fire started in the engine compartment and subsequently spread into the passenger compartment and trunk.

While fires involving the Chevy Volt, Fisker Karma and Tesla Model S have raised the issue of electric and hybrid vehicles’ fire safety (mostly out of proportion to the actual fire risk of EVs), the batteries that supply current to the two electric motors up front in the NSX were reportedly not involved in the fire.

The incident has incidentally has allowed us a look at the NSX’s construction. Composite body panels (which melted in the fire) are mounted to an aluminum unibody, not entirely unlike the Pontiac Fiero, thought the little mid-engine Pontiac had a superstructure made of steel.

More photos here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Peter DeLorenzo: Sources Say Tesla Batteries Not Sufficiently Protected http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/peter-delorenzo-sources-say-tesla-batteries-not-sufficiently-protected/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/peter-delorenzo-sources-say-tesla-batteries-not-sufficiently-protected/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 10:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=638721 Reports from unnamed sources critical of competitors are not the most reliable, but Pete DeLorenzo says according to his sources within the auto industry a design shortcoming is the reason why the batteries in two Tesla Model S cars have recently started fires following collisions. Presumably DeLorenzo’s source or sources are within General Motors because […]

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Reports from unnamed sources critical of competitors are not the most reliable, but Pete DeLorenzo says according to his sources within the auto industry a design shortcoming is the reason why the batteries in two Tesla Model S cars have recently started fires following collisions. Presumably DeLorenzo’s source or sources are within General Motors because they compare the way the battery pack is housed in Tesla to the way the Chevy Volt does it. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stressed how his company protects the battery pack with 1/4″ thick armor plating underneath the car, but DeLorenzo’s source says that is essentially a band-aid solution to the fact that the battery pack itself has only a single protective shield, compared to the three layers of wrapping that the Volt’s battery pack has.

From DeLorenzo’s Autoextremist site:

What I’ve found out about the Tesla is this: There is a reason for fires upon impact with the Model S and it has nothing to do with the batteries themselves but how the batteries are – or are not, as the case may be – protected in the vehicle.

We all know Elon is a genius and that Tesla is the miracle of the new automotive world, but the fact remains that the miracle workers at Tesla skipped a step. It’s something that GM – you know, that tired old rust-belt auto company from a bygone era – learned while developing the Volt. The GM engineering team zeroed in on a critical area of concern with the Volt’s batteries when it came to protecting them upon impact, something like, “Gee, if someone were to really crash one of these things there could be a problem with the batteries, so, we better do something about it.” So the GM development team triple-wrapped the Volt battery pack to reduce the chance of “piercing” during accidents.

And guess what? The “piercing” of the batteries is exactly what caused the two post-crash fires in the Model S. Why? The Tesla development team chose to single-wrap the Tesla batteries, thus leaving the batteries less protected and more exposed during incidents, which is a giant heaping, steaming bowl of Not Good, when it comes right down to it.

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A Second Tesla Model S Burns http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/a-second-tesla-model-s-burns/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/a-second-tesla-model-s-burns/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 11:30:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=636697 A second Tesla Model S has burned following an accident, this time near Merida, Mexico. Tesla Motors issued a statement saying the customer was unhurt after crash in which the Model S hit a concrete barrier. The accident occurred on October 19 according to local news reports that say that the luxury electric car was […]

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A second Tesla Model S has burned following an accident, this time near Merida, Mexico. Tesla Motors issued a statement saying the customer was unhurt after crash in which the Model S hit a concrete barrier. The accident occurred on October 19 according to local news reports that say that the luxury electric car was speeding and “hit a raised pedestrian crossing and briefly took flight before crashing into a wall and tree.” Photos and video posted of the crash’s aftermath show the front end damaged and flames burning the car.

“We were able to contact the driver quickly and are pleased that he is safe,” Liz Jarvis-Shean, a Tesla spokesperson, said Monday in an e-mailed statement. “This was a significant accident where the car was traveling at such a high speed that it smashed through a concrete wall and then hit a large tree, yet the driver walked away from the car with no permanent injury.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week that it found no evidence that the October 1 fire that engulfed the front end of a Model S in Washington state after the car hit metal debris that punctured the battery pack was not due to any defects or violations of U.S. safety standards.

According to Tesla, both customers plan to purchase new Model S cars to replace their burned Teslas. “He is appreciative of the safety and performance of the car and has asked if we can expedite delivery of his next Model S,” Jarvis-Shean said about the owner of the car that burned in Mexico.

 

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Federal Regulators Will Not Investigate Tesla Model S Fire http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/federal-regulators-will-not-investigate-tesla-model-s-fire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/federal-regulators-will-not-investigate-tesla-model-s-fire/#comments Fri, 25 Oct 2013 14:16:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=634297 In an e-mailed statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that it has decided against launching a formal investigation into the Washington state fire early this month involving a Tesla Model S. The electric car ran over some metal debris that punctured the front battery pack, sparking the fire. NHTSA said that it found no […]

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In an e-mailed statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that it has decided against launching a formal investigation into the Washington state fire early this month involving a Tesla Model S. The electric car ran over some metal debris that punctured the front battery pack, sparking the fire. NHTSA said that it found no evidence of violations of federal motor vehicle safety standard or that the fire resulted from a vehicle defect. While the agency did not conduct an on-scene investigation of the Oct. 1 fire due to the partial shutdown of the federal government during the congressional budget impasse, after consulting with Tesla, regulators decided that no investigation was needed. Just a few days ago, on Oct. 22,  NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said the agency was “gathering data” on the fire, which resulted in a complete writeoff of the Model S.

A Tesla spokesperson said that the carmaker had no immediate response to NHTSA’s decision. In an October 5th blog post, CEO Elon Musk insisted that the Model S was safe, saying that the fire resulted from an unusual crash that would have resulted in a fire in a gasoline car as well.

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Tesla Stock Gets Double Whammy From Analyst Downgrade and Model S Fire http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/tesla-stock-gets-double-whammy-from-analyst-downgrade-and-model-s-fire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/tesla-stock-gets-double-whammy-from-analyst-downgrade-and-model-s-fire/#comments Fri, 04 Oct 2013 12:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=600089 The price of Tesla Motors stock took a double hit this week as an influential analyst downgraded the company’s investment potential almost simultaneously with the viral spread of a Model S electric car burning in Washington state after running over metal debris in the road. On Wednesday morning, the Robert W. Baird company changed its […]

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The price of Tesla Motors stock took a double hit this week as an influential analyst downgraded the company’s investment potential almost simultaneously with the viral spread of a Model S electric car burning in Washington state after running over metal debris in the road. On Wednesday morning, the Robert W. Baird company changed its rating on shares of Tesla from “Outperform” to “Neutral”. Around the same time Wednesday, Jalopnik posted a cellphone video of the burning Model S. As the video spread throughout the online automotive community and Baird analyst Ben Kallo’s report spread through the financial community, Tesla stock prices declined all day on Wednesday, finally finishing down 12.05 at $180.95 on volume that was higher than average for the stock.

The Baird report said that Tesla stock had peaked in value and that changes in the investment structure of the EV startup made the stock less attractive to investors. Kallo’s report said, “Although we continue to be bullish on TSLA’s long-term prospects, we think the stock appreciation reflects its technological leadership and several milestones that could contain execution risk. We would look to become more constructive on execution related pullbacks or significant advances in battery technology.” With the stock’s 470% gains and the end of the year approaching, institutional investors may have taken the report as a signal to secure their gains and cash out. Another report on Tesla from Bank of America said that pension funds and other large investors were exiting Tesla. CNN reported that small investors were buying those shares, a move seen by analysts as negative.

Regardless of the stock fluctuations and a drop in market value of approximately $3 billion analysts say that Tesla should still have no problems securing financing for current operations and for the development of the Model X crossover and the mass market EV that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised. Still, as a maker of only electric powered cars, Tesla is far more exposed in the event of problems with EVs than those established car companies that are exploring electrically powered cars and trucks.

Tesla cars have been driven for a combined 113 million miles, according to the company, and the Washington state fire was the first case of a Tesla battery pack burning, which puts the rate of burning Teslas at 1/10th the rate of fires in conventional gasoline or diesel powered cars. Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks catch fire one way or another every year in the U.S. with little attention, isolated fires involving cars such as the Chevy Volt, Fisker Karma, and Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV and the lithium ion batteries used in the new Boeing Dreamliner have drawn considerable interest and possibly created a marketing obstacle for electric cars. Those few EV fires followed recalls by Apple for far more numerous fires involving the lithium ion batteries used in laptop computers. Though the most successful of the EVs and hybrids, the Toyota Prius, uses nickel-metal hydride battery cells, the automobile industry has been moving to lithium-ion, as used in the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and Ford C-Max. Li-ion batteries have better energy density and discharge characteristics. The are also lighter than NiMH batteries

After releasing his valuation report and the video of the fire going viral, Ben Kallo considered the impact of the fire. “Tesla’s a very controversial stock and this will give fodder for the bears. They’ll say this is going to slow down sales.” While short term the fire may hurt Model S sales, Kallo and other analysts still expect that Tesla will see strong demand going forward.

On their part, Tesla officials said that the battery and the car worked as designed, keeping the fire under control and allowing the driver time to pull over and safely exit the vehicle. “The fire was caused by the direct impact of a large metallic object to one of the 16 modules within the Model S battery pack,” Tesla spokeswoman Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean said. “Because each module within the battery pack is, by design, isolated by fire barriers to limit any potential damage, the fire in the battery pack was contained to a small section in the front of the vehicle,” she added. Panasonic Corp., which makes the Model S’ batteries, declined to comment.

While Tesla insisted that the burning Model S worked as designed, Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, said that there has to be a “design issue” with the Model S if an object striking the bottom of the car could lead to a battery fire.

Tesla’s battery pack uses standard form factor lithium-ion battery cells similar to those used in laptop computers. As a result, the combined battery pack takes up most of the underside of the Model S. By comparison, EVs from established car companies use custom sized battery cells so the finished battery packs can be packaged more compactly as in the T-shaped battery pack located in the middle of the Chevy Volt.

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Tesla Model S Burns Causing Stock Price Jitters http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/tesla-model-s-burns-causing-stock-price-jitters/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/tesla-model-s-burns-causing-stock-price-jitters/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 19:08:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=593697 After photos were published of a Tesla Model S in Washington state burning following a collision, with a subsequent 9.1% dip in the price of Tesla stock, the company issued a statement. The car, “collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road, causing significant damage to the vehicle,” the EV startup […]

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After photos were published of a Tesla Model S in Washington state burning following a collision, with a subsequent 9.1% dip in the price of Tesla stock, the company issued a statement. The car, “collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road, causing significant damage to the vehicle,” the EV startup said. For the day, Tesla shares fell 6.2 percent, or $12.05, to close at $180.95 in New York trading on Wednesday. The decline was biggest one day drop in Tesla’s stock price since July 16. Analysts attributed the steep decline on their opinion that the stock was already overvalued, making it susceptible to any bad news.

The company said that the damage sustained was contained within the front end of the car, that the passenger compartment was not compromised in any way and that  the Model S performed as designed. “This was not a spontaneous event,” a Tesla spokesperson said. “Every indication we have at this point is that the fire was a result of the collision and the damage sustained through that.”

The driver, who was not injured, pulled over after the car informed him to do so, and then smelled something burning. After exiting the car he called emergency responders, who had some difficulty extinguishing the blaze. At first the fire appeared to be under control, but it reignited and when firefighters decided that water seemed to be intensifying the fire, they switched to a dry chemical fire extinguisher.

To put out the fire,  which took place in the front of the car after the driver hit some metal debris, disabling the car, firefighters first dismantled the front end of the Model S and put holes into the battery pack. When that wasn’t effective they used a circular saw to cut an access hole to the battery and extinguished the fire.

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NHTSA Opens Preliminary Investigation Into Jeep Grand Cherokee Headliner Fires http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/nhtsa-opens-preliminary-investigation-into-jeep-grand-cherokee-headliner-fires/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/nhtsa-opens-preliminary-investigation-into-jeep-grand-cherokee-headliner-fires/#comments Fri, 23 Aug 2013 20:50:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=500632 Issues about fire safety continue to affect the Jeep brand as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced today that it is opening an investigation into 146,000 2012 model year Grand Cherokees, after receiving reports from three consumers who say that the headliners of their cars caught fire near the passenger side sun visor. […]

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Issues about fire safety continue to affect the Jeep brand as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced today that it is opening an investigation into 146,000 2012 model year Grand Cherokees, after receiving reports from three consumers who say that the headliners of their cars caught fire near the passenger side sun visor.

“The customers reported a burning odor and visible smoke coming from the headliner while the vehicle was being driven. This was followed by flames from the headliner itself. Customers lowered the windows in an effort to clear the smoke but this increased the fire’s intensity. All three vehicles had to be extinguished with a fire extinguisher or by the fire department as they continued to burn after the vehicle was turned off . The fire also caused the sunroof to shatter in one incident, and in another, the fire spread to the passenger seat when the burning sun visor fell onto the seat. In each case, the incident resulted in the vehicle being inoperable requiring it to be towed to the dealership.”

A Chrysler spokesman said that the company is conducting its own investigation and that it is cooperating with NHTSA:

“Customer safety is paramount at Chrysler Group. Accordingly, our engineers are investigating this concern while also fully supporting the Preliminary Evaluation opened by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is among the safest vehicles on the road today. It also is the most awarded SUV ever.”

The investigation into burning headliners follows a voluntary recall of over 1.5 million 1992-98 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-07 Jeep Libertys to address possible fires caused by leaking fuel tanks in the event of a collision, even though those vehicles met all applicable standards at time of manufacture. NHTSA has still not determined if it will crash test Jeep vehicles that have been recalled and retrofitted with a trailer hitch intended to protect the gas tank.

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Daimler Loses A Round With EU Over R134a Refrigerant, Full EU Commission Meets http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/daimler-loses-a-round-with-eu-over-r134a-refrigerant-full-eu-commission-meets/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/daimler-loses-a-round-with-eu-over-r134a-refrigerant-full-eu-commission-meets/#comments Thu, 18 Jul 2013 11:30:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495643 The EU Commission has provisionally sided with France in that country’s decision to stop the sale of new Mercedes-Benz cars because of Daimler’s decision to continue to use R134a refrigerant in it’s HVAC systems. The EU has banned R134a out of concerns for global warming. The only available replacement that meets the new regulations is R1234yf, […]

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The EU Commission has provisionally sided with France in that country’s decision to stop the sale of new Mercedes-Benz cars because of Daimler’s decision to continue to use R134a refrigerant in it’s HVAC systems. The EU has banned R134a out of concerns for global warming. The only available replacement that meets the new regulations is R1234yf, made by Honeywell, and Mercedes-Benz has insisted that their tests show that the new refrigerant is dangerously flammable and could start an underhood fire under certain conditions. The provisional ruling could be a problem for Daimler in other EU countries.

“Currently in the European market there are vehicles produced by this manufacturer that, according to the preliminary Commission analysis, are not in conformity with their type-approval,” EU vice president for trade Antonio Tajani said in a prepared statement on Tuesday. Daimler insists that since the cars were approved by Germany’s Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (Federal Motor Transport Authority), known as KBA, they are legal to sell in France and the rest of the EU. “Our cars have a valid, European-wide permit. Nothing should stand in the way of their being registered.”

So far the cars that are affected are the Mercedes A class, B class and the new CLA. The company said that the regulatory blockade could affect about 2% of its global sales, about 29,000 cars. Audi and Volkswagen have also objected to the refrigerant change.

The issue is serious enough that a meeting was scheduled for today (July 17, 2013) with all 28 Member States of the EU sending representatives. A spokeswoman for Tajani told just-auto from Brussels. “Tomorrow afternoon, we are probably going to send a release on the position of the European Commission.”

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Does BMW Have a Fire Safety Problem With All of Its Brands’ Turbos? 2,916 More Non-Chevy-Volts Recalled For Fire Hazard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/does-bmw-have-a-fire-safety-problem-with-all-of-its-brands-turbos-2916-more-non-chevy-volts-recalled-for-fire-hazard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/does-bmw-have-a-fire-safety-problem-with-all-of-its-brands-turbos-2916-more-non-chevy-volts-recalled-for-fire-hazard/#comments Tue, 17 Apr 2012 18:07:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=440363 It hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as the handful of early production Tata Nanos that caught fire, or the Ferrari 458 recall, also for fire safety issues, or the newly expanded investigation into Jeep Wranglers burning, and certainly not nearly the attention given the near non-event with that one crash tested Chevy Volt, but […]

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It hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as the handful of early production Tata Nanos that caught fire, or the Ferrari 458 recall, also for fire safety issues, or the newly expanded investigation into Jeep Wranglers burning, and certainly not nearly the attention given the near non-event with that one crash tested Chevy Volt, but BMW appears to have a corporate wide fire problem with turbocharged models that has now resulted in recalls of BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce vehicles. Earlier this year BMW recalled turbocharged Mini Cooper models because the circuit board controlling the auxiliary water pump used to cool down the turbocharger after the engine is shut off could develop an electrical fault due to copper migrating between circuit traces, creating a fire hazard. Now comes word that BMW is expanding a previous recall (PDF) of some 2010 BMW and Rolls-Royce models to include 2011 and 2012 models. It’s not clear if it’s the exact problem as with the Minis, though it does involve the same component, the electronic controller for the auxiliary water pump. To their credit, BMW discovered the latest problem in internal testing and there is no word on any real-world fires with consumers’ cars. The Mini recall was prompted by reports of a dozen fires, eight of them while the vehicles were parked. The latest recall (PDF) affects 2011 BMW 5 Series, and 2012 6 Series, 7 Series and X5 and X6 vehicles. Also affected are 2010-2011 Rolls-Royce Ghosts, which are built with a BMW platform and share components with the parent brand. BMW says the problem exists with 100% of the turbocharged V8 and V12 powered models in those lines. A total of about 35,000 BMW made vehicles are affected by the original and expanded BMW and Rolls-Royce recalls.

In the initial voluntary recall last October, BMW attributed the problem to an unspecified malfunction in the electronic controller. It’s possible that it’s the same problem as with the Minis.

Under certain conditions, the pump’s electronic circuit board can malfunction. The malfunction can occur as a result of certain design features in combination with high operating temperatures. Under these conditions, this can lead to a failure of the water pump. In some cases, the circuit board can overheat. In an extreme case, overheating of the circuit board can lead to smolder of the water pump. If smoldering occurs, it cannot be excluded that this may also lead to an engine compartment or vehicle fire.

In the subsequent expanded recall, BMW attributed a problem with later production vehicles to improperly made turbocharger housings, resulting in leaking coolant.

It was discovered that for the additional production, there was a manufacturing process deviation at the supplier for this limited production run of pumps, this deviation could result in cracks in the pump housing. If this were to occur, then coolant could enter and contact the pump’s circuit board.

Whether or not it’s the same exact defect affecting Minis, BMWs and Rolls-Royces, it’s clear that BMW has quality and fire safety problems involving its turbochargers’ water pumps. The recall notice sent to NHTSA from BMW identifies the faulty component supplier as Pierburg Pump Technologies GmbH.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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