BMW is recalling over 1 million vehicles that have one possibly dangerous flaw

The recall includes the 1 and 3 Series, the X3 and 5 Series, and the X5 and Z4 models.
Brad Bergan
A BMW iX3 SUV.Tramino / iStock

BMW is recalling 1.03 million vehicles globally, citing possible fire risks according to a Thursday earnings report.

This marks the German automaker's third recall on this issue since 2017, and includes several models assembled between 2006 and 2013 — including the Series 3 and 1, in addition to the X3, the 5 Series, and Z4 and X5 models.

Specifically, the heater used for the positive crankcase ventilation valve (PCV) can sometimes short-circuit — potentially leading to a full-blown fire, in rare cases.

It's important to note that while BMW has had other recent recalls in 2017 and 2019 — involving 184,000 and 740,000 vehicles, respectively — this latest recalled fleet far exceeds them.

BMW says all cars are still safe to drive, unless you smell burning plastic

Fixes are still underway for vehicles recalled in previous years, but these will require a greater inventory of parts, and so could take until mid-2022. In the earnings report, BMW also said some of the vehicles included in earlier recalls weren't affected by the new recall, since they were assembled with a new and improved PCV valve heater design.

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But the new colossal recall was spurred by reports citing fire in BMW vehicles that had already received repairs that addressed the earlier recalls. Upon launching an investigation, BMW discovered that problems with supplier production might leave the PCV valve vulnerable to heater damage in real-world driving scenarios.

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As of the earnings report, no incidents or injuries had turned up with relevance to the latest recall. BMW also added that drivers could keep using their vehicles until they receive recall fixes — unless they notice smoke coming from the engine compartment, whether by sight or the smell of burning plastic.

BMW broke its sales record with a 2.52 million-vehicle run in 2021

That's good advice, but it seems like any half-conscious driver would pull over if smoke started pouring out of the engine. Hopefully.

Recalling more than one million vehicles sounds like a big loss for any automaker, but BMW actually more than doubled its pre-pandemic earnings in 2021 — scoring $17.67 billion, according to the earnings report. This was linked to rising prices despite higher sales of luxury and high-end vehicles, and combining these two factors lead to a substantial boost in revenue.

It looks like the global supply chain shortage didn't slow BMW's growth. A record 2.52 million vehicles sold in 2021, with a 10.3 percent earnings margin included for that year. This is significant because it's the German automaker's highest since 2017. "We are in a good position and optimistic about the future," said Nicolas Peter, BMW's chief financial executive, in the call.

BMW is expanding into all-electric with novel applications

So optimistic, it seems, that BMW is engineering new kinds of creative expression into its cars. In January 2022, the automaker revealed new technology for a forthcoming car, the all-electric iX Flow SUV. Specifically, the manufacturer revealed a new kind of color-changing paint that lets you shift the vibe of your vehicle with the touch of a button.

You read that right.

The future of automotive tech - And with BMW's fossil fuel production at its main plant set to halt in 2024, the German automaker is making big strides in its aims to move deeper into sustainable automotive technology. Massive, million-car recall aside, the carmaker's enormous profits are the latest signal that the next generation of all-electric vehicles won't be a Tesla monopoly, but a diverse mix of new and classic brands.