BMW PULLS OUR CHAINS
Now I know you are expecting the on-the-spot reports from the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique and the Boite de Merde Ralley Mackay. Unfortunately, we have had to carry those over to next week because there are some car companies we need to put in the naughty corner.
Let’s talk timing chains and BMW. Last month three Hughes Limousines 7 Series BMWs were off the road with timing-chain issues. The three cars were repaired by BMW dealers. Within a week one engine had blown up. A month later another had blown up. The service people told the third driver they had learned something by then. Replacing the oil pump meant the third engine didn’t blow up. That’s good: replacing the engines cost $34,000 each. BMW agreed to pay half. Hughes didn’t argue much since the cost was going to be borne by the two drivers who rented the BMW 7 Series from Hughes.
BMW timing chains are a long-running saga. In 2013, the BBC’s Watchdog program investigated total engine failures in BMW 1 Series, 3 Series and 5 Series vehicles built between 2007 and 2009. Those engines died because the timing chains failed. If the timing chain fails it spells expensive disaster. BMW failed to acknowledge liability. As the BBC said: “BMW owners put their trust in a respected name. That trust was misplaced.”
In 2014 in the US BMW did a Clayton’s recall. (For younger and overseas readers, Claytons was a nonalcoholic drink promoted as “the drink you have when you′re not having a drink”.) As auto blog Top Speed said, BMW launched a “customer-care package” involving just about every BMW with the N63 engine, the twin-turbocharged, 4.4-litre V8 with 300kW used in every 5,6, 7, X5 and X6 model with a name ending with “50i” and made between 2008 and 2013.
The “timing chains on the N63 have been found to stretch and wear out prematurely, resulting in premature valve-train wear and reduced engine performance”, or total engine failure. BMW has faith that their timing chains will last the life of the engine, so it puts them at the back of the engine. If the chains need work the whole engine needs to come out.
Top Speed said “masking a voluntary and rather extensive engine recall as a ‘customer-care package’ shouldn’t do BMW a lot of good in the long run, at least as far as its brand image in the eyes of its customers is concerned. Not to mention that certain service workers were well aware of a peculiar problem with a high number of N63 engines built between 2008 and 2013, so it took BMW quite a while to acknowledge the problem.” Sound like VW to you? BMW had not responded by this column’s deadline. Legendary Winton PR person Jo Pocklington bought a new Isuzu ute. It came standard with the speedo that reads around 108km/h when travelling at 100km/h. The Izuzu salesman guaranteed that “the problem had been fixed”. But no. Isuzu now says the speedo cannot be recalibrated, even if the recalibration is within the legal limits of the Australian Design Rules. In a long technical email, spokesman Dave Harding basically said the Isuzu has “an optimistic tolerance of 10 per cent, plus 4km/h of the true speed”.
So with 112km/h on the speedo Jo could be driving at 100km/h or then again not. Not only is this a problem in Jo’s Victoria, where the fun police have zero tolerance for being even 1 per cent above the speed limit, but clearly a difference of 8km/h is a dangerous distraction. Jo, do yourself a favour and buy a decent ute next time.
Talking of utes: I asked the PR people at Ford whether they still would be selling a ute after manufacturing stops. Their answer: “In relation to your inquiry, we have forwarded your email to the relevant department for review. We trust this is of assistance.”
To put you in a better mood, have a look at this: the 1966 Ford GT40 Mk I from the Jim Click Collection. RM Sotheby’s is auctioning it at Monterey, California, in August. One of just 31 Mark I road cars, its owners include Australia’s Bib Stillwell and Britain’s Jim Clark. Expect to pay at least $4 million.