River Forest BMW car fire exposes similar complaints connected to luxury vehicle brand

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Friday, November 19, 2021
BMW car fire exposes similar complaints related to vehicle recalls
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What if your car burst into flames and it wasn't even running? A suburban Chicago family says that's what happened to them.

RIVER FOREST, Ill. (WLS) -- What if your car burst into flames and it wasn't even running? A suburban Chicago family said that's what happened to them.

"It went up in flames within minutes, and with the car being off and with me having the keys," said Lina Ricchio.

Ricchio and her daughter had just gotten out of their BMW at the family's school in River Forest in September when it burst into flames. They said the car wasn't even running at the time.

"Thank God me and my daughter were not in the vehicle," she said. "I just couldn't believe it. I mean, I was in shock."

Ricchio's 2009 BMW X5 never had a fire-related recall for her specific car, however, there were fire-related recalls for other cars like hers with the same make, model and year.

RELATED: Cars erupting in flames: BMW mystery

"Eighteen total recalls involving this vehicle and five of which have actually been in some way related to risk of fire, so there's quite a number for one make and model of a vehicle," said Jason Levine with the Center for Auto Safety.

So why wasn't Ricchio's on that list? Levine explained that manufacturers can recall a small portion of a large group of cars by pinpointing specific issues.

"If you can narrow down where that problem occurred in the process, let's say it was a given manufacturing facility or a given set of dates, you don't need to recall every single vehicle that happens to be made in that given year with that same model," he said.

Levine and Ricchio were glad to hear that BMW North America will inspect her car fire, particularly because of the high number of recalls for this model. However, fire-related recalls have occurred with many automakers.

RELATED: BMW recalls 1.4M vehicles due to fire risk

"We have been in touch with the Ricchios and will participate in a coordinated inspection with their insurance company in an attempt to determine the cause and origin of the fire. Vehicle fires can occur for any number of reasons so we cannot speculate as to the cause," BMW told the I-Team.

"They want to know why it's happening so maybe they'll discover this as a new problem, or maybe they'll discover that this vehicle should have been subject to one of these previous recalls," Levine said.

In 2017, the I-Team collaborated with ABC News in an investigation into BMW fires across the country regarding cars that had not been subject to recall. It was found that more than 40 cases around the country where BMW owners said their parked cars burst into flames. Months after the report aired, BMW of North America issued two recalls covering about one million vehicles that contained parts implicated in car fires.

RELATED: BMW Car Fires: More fires reported in parked cars while engines off

"I called BMW, they ran my VIN -- there's no recalls on my vehicle," Ricchio said. "I looked it up [and] I did see that in the past this did happen to other BMW X5s, so I just don't understand why my car wasn't one of the cars that had a recall."

Some of the issues in past BMW fire-related recalls involved valve heaters, blower motor system connectors, and wiring and electrical connectors in the system that controls airflow for heating and air conditioning.

Ricchio is eager to hear the results of BMW's inspection into her car fire.

"It could have happened while I was on the highway and it could happen to other people while they're in the vehicle, so I just think they need to figure out why this is happening so that it doesn't happen to anybody else and no one else gets hurt," she said.

No matter what type of car you drive, you can search its VIN to look for open recalls by going to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website. You should also report incidents, like fires, to NHTSA, the manufacturer and organizations like the Center for Auto Safety.