Crisis Management Case Study … What Should BMW Do Now?

Mike Schoultz
4 min readMay 15, 2017

Why ARE parked BMWs spontaneously catching fire across the country? Owners demand answers as dozens of the luxury German cars burst into flames while the engines were OFF. This sounds like an awesome crisis management case study. It is especially true for loyal 25 years BMW owners, like me.

A new report finds more than 40 cases of US BMWs catching fire in the past five years. In each case, the cars were parked and not under recall by the German carmaker. Various models between one and 15 years old have been implicated in the ABC News report.

Is there a colossal crisis management issue brewing for BMW?

Does your business have a crisis management plan? Answer the following honestly now … what would you recommend for BMW with the looming issue? Specifically, the question is what BMW should do now.

It is just logical that as businesses engage with all sorts of customers, and no matter how good they are, they need to have contingency plans in place.

Contingencies for all sorts of problems, mistakes, and failures are required. How well they deal with these will determine whether they will be addressing a major crisis or a minor hiccup.

The issue

ABC News is reporting that there are multiple reports of parked BMWs catching fire in North America. All of the reports are coming from owners whose cars have been parked for various periods of time, ranging from hours to days. The cars have been catching fire while parked and turned off, which seems to be causing some confusion.

Concern over the safety of BMW cars is mounting in the wake of a new report that found dozens of examples of mysterious fires breaking out in vehicles that had been parked for as long as several days.

More than 40 parked BMWs that are not under an open recall have caught fire in the US over the past five years, with similar incidents in Sweden, China, India, and South Korea.

BMW initial response

BMW is denying that they’ve found ‘any pattern related to quality or component failure’ and says that out of the 4.9million vehicles it has on US roads, fire incidents are exceedingly rare.

After a spate of BMW fires in South Korea, a government investigation found a possible fuel leak, leading to a 1,700-car recall, but it is unknown if the American fires are related to that issue.

BMW has commented on the matter, stating that “With approximately 4.9 million BMW vehicles on U.S. roads, fire incidents involving BMWs are very rare. BMW takes every incident very seriously and has a dedicated team prepared to work with BMW owners, insurance companies, and authorities to investigate any vehicle fire incident that is brought to our attention.”

With the cars parked and the engines off, there’s typically very little to start a fire other than an electrical issue, due to maybe a damaged wire or improperly secured battery terminal. Though, BMW claims it’s investigated these instances and claims that it hasn’t seen and product defect-related patterns.

To be fair, it must be incredibly difficult to spot a pattern, due to the wide variety of vehicles that are reported in these incidents. The BMWs involved in these fires range from 1–15 years old, so electrical systems, chassis and engines vary greatly.

Here’s BMW’s full statement:

We at BMW empathize with anyone who has experienced a vehicle fire. We understand it is a traumatic event and the safety of our customers is of utmost importance to us.

BMW has a long reputation for engineering excellence and is known as a pioneer in safety technology. We have full confidence in our products and strive always to provide the best possible owner’s experience.

With approximately 4.9 million BMW vehicles on U.S. roads, fire incidents involving BMWs are extremely rare. BMW takes every incident very seriously and has a team dedicated to working with BMW owners, insurance companies and authorities to investigate vehicle fire incidents brought to our attention.

We have investigated and in some cases inspected the vehicles identified by ABC News. These vehicles span an age range of 1–15 years, accumulated mileage of up to 232,250 miles and multiple generations and model types. In cases that we have inspected and can determine root cause, we have not seen any pattern related to quality or component failure.

Vehicle fires can result from a wide variety of external reasons and can range from improper accident damage repair, unauthorized aftermarket modifications (such as remote starters, stereo installations, etc.), previous vehicle flooding, rodent nesting, lack of, or improper preventative maintenance and even arson.

Our Customer Relations team will be happy to assist customers with any additional questions or concerns about their BMW and can be reached at or 800–831–1117.

So what now, BMW?

Click here to see the recommended response.

Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he writes about topics that relate to improving the performance of business. Find them on G+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.



Mike Schoultz

Mike Schoultz writes about improving the performance of business. Bookmark his blog for stories and articles.