BMW PULLS OUR CHAINS

The Weekend Australian - Life - - MOTORING - JOHN CON­NOLLY jc@jcp.com.au

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.

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