BMW Recall Affects 28,450 Mini Cooper S Cars

BMW Group has changed its mind and is recalling 28,450 cars -- 2007 Mini Cooper S (hardtop) and some 2008 units of the same model -- to fix a problem that had put the company in conflict with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Today's recall notice from NHTSA cites the problem with the vehicles' exhaust pipes, which NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation determined were causing burn injuries to some drivers who contacted the pipe while accessing the rear cargo area of the vehicles via the rear hatchback shortly after the vehicles were driven.

BMW will replace the recalled vehicles' tailpipes with a shorter new tailpipe at no charge, according to the notice, which says the recall is expected to begin in January 2009. Customers may contact BMW at 1-866-275-6464, NHTSA's Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236, or report a problem via this NHTSA site.

NHTSA announced today it had cancelled a Dec. 17 public meeting on the issue because the recall made it moot.

ODI had advised BMW by letter on Oct. 10, 2008, of its belief that the subject vehicles contain a safety-related defect within the meaning of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, and there ODI requested BMW to initiate a safety recall, notifying all owners, purchasers, and dealers of the defect and providing a free remedy for each of the subject vehicles. In its Oct. 27, 2008, response, BMW "declined to conduct the safety recall stating it is not warranted and informed NHTSA that, in the interest of customer satisfaction, it had instituted a Service Campaign concerning this issue."

The agency said the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act provides for a safety recall when there is a safety-related defect, and the law does not give the manufacturer the option of choosing a different course of action. Unlike a manufacturer's service campaign, a recall notice to the vehicle owner must explain the risk to safety related to the defect and the type of injury that can result from the defect. Initiating a recall also requires BMW to provide quarterly reporting to NHTSA to ensure all vehicles have been remedied.

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