Family demands answers after luxury car bursts into flames

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. (WLS) -- A local family narrowly escaped after their luxury car burst into flames, a moment captured on video.

There are two dramatically different conclusions about what may have caused the fireball on the road. The family, who reached out to the I-Team, said they're now out thousands of dollars and are demanding more answers from the dealership and vehicle manufacturer.

The video shows the Kim family in Rolling Meadows escaping their 2014 BMW X5 just in time.

"So I screamed and said, 'Everybody get out!' We crossed the street and by the time we took out our phones, half of the car was already on fire," Janet Kim said.

"My daughter really panicked and instinctively tried to run across the street and she darted across two lanes of traffic before I even knew what happened," said Duk Kim.

The Kims' luxury vehicle, which they bought new, only had 18,000 miles on it and they said they serviced it exclusively at the authorized BMW dealer.

"It's been a frustrating process. BMW corporate has been contacted. We've traded countless emails and phone calls. They just wanted to alleviate themselves from any responsibility whatsoever. BMW told me to go through my insurance company. They weren't going to handle anything beyond that," Duk said.

Duk said his insurance is covering about $50,000, the Blue Book value of the car. But he paid $70,000 for it. He was initially offered $3,500 off of his next BMW purchase. Then the company upped the amount to $5,000 when he fought back. He has not accepted that offer.

"We bought this car to keep for a while because we thought it was a safe car. Now we're lost on the depreciation that the car has experienced. We're lost on the $1,500-plus of stuff we had in the car. And the inconvenience as well and some of the trauma it's caused," Duk said.

BMW told the I-Team it "provided the customer with a generous Goodwill Offer to help him into a new or Certified Pre-Owned BMW or MINI." And that, "we have been in contact with Mr. Kim and have eventually had the opportunity to inspect the vehicle... The customer's insurance company is in control of next steps."

"I can't believe the way they responded. I thought they were going to come the very next day to try and find what happened and make sure we are okay," Janet said.

A forensic engineering firm hired by the Kims' insurance company determined the fire was caused by improper installation of the battery by personnel at the dealership Patrick BMW in Schaumburg, saying, "if the battery connection had been properly tightened the fire would not have occurred."

"I find that really troubling because this car was purchased brand new, it's only been serviced through the certified BMW dealership I purchased it from," Duk said.

Patrick BMW said, "If it is eventually determined that our mistake caused the fire, we will take full responsibility."

However, the dealership's insurance company came to a completely different conclusion. Its engineer said the fire started in the "left rear quarter panel area of the vehicle...likely due to a wire to the left taillight that suffered overheating."

It wasn't specifically in the report, but the dealership also blamed an installation of an after-market trailer hitch and associated wiring. The KIms adamantly deny installing a trailer hitch and said they never saw one on the vehicle. Now they're left wondering what really caused the blaze.

The dealership also said it takes its responsibility for properly repairing clients' vehicles "very seriously," and that it's proud of its "outstanding reputation."
Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.