BMW admits quality control problems

Published: 01 September 2008

The quality of BMW motorcycles has suffered due to a massive boost in sales, the firm has admitted.

The German motorcycle manufacturer, which has a strong reputation for reliability and quality, has failed to maintain standards while struggling to meet a rise in demand of over 40%, according to bosses. 

Around 7,000 motorbikes have been sold to UK customers with potentially faulty immobilisers, the firm has announced. Models across the range are affected by the fault, which could leave owners stranded by preventing them starting their bikes.

The firm is also dealing with a second fault, affecting fuel pumps on R1200GSs. The fuel pump relay can fail, halting fuel supply to the engine, BMW said. 

Adrian Roderick, the firm’s UK general manager, said the two faults were just the latest problems to arise following a sales boost. “They’re the two we’ve had to deal with most recently,” he said.

In both cases the firm has decided not recall potentially affected bikes but to replace faulty components when they are next being serviced.

Roderick blamed the problems on the firm’s struggle to build 15-20% more bikes each year for four years to meet the surge in demand. “We were growing so fast we were sort of tripping over ourselves,” he said. ”We’re well over 40% up on four years ago. With any product, when you suddenly increase volumes quite quickly you are prone to things going adrift.”

He put the sales boost down to the shedding of the firm’s image as an “eccentric or quirky choice”, helped by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s use of BMWs in their TV adventure series Long Way Round and Long Way Down.

Hendrik von Kuenheim, the head of BMW’s motorcycle division, said: “We’re selling a lot more bikes so there are bound to be some problems.” Von Kunheim said a trouble shooter had been appointed to report directly to him on quality to help resolve the issue.

Roderick claimed the firm was now getting a grip on the problem with the help of the new appointment. He said progress could be charted through warrantee costs. “As sales went up the warrantee cost per bike went up slightly,” he admitted. “Now it’s dropping back down again.”

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