A class action lawsuit was filed last month against BMW of North America LLC in a New Jersey federal court. It’s alleged that an engine defect in some of its 2007-09 Mini Cooper vehicles have cost vehicle owners thousands of dollars in repair and replacement costs. The named Plaintiffs, Joshua Skeen and Laurie Freeman, contend BMW has known of the defect, which causes cars to suddenly quit without warning, since 2008, but failed to tell prospective purchasers about the problem, offer a recall or reimburse vehicle owners who have already paid to replace or restore their engines. The complaint reads in part:
Despite the safety risk to class vehicle occupants, Defendants failed to disclose material information regarding the defect in an attempt to avoid the cost of repair and, instead, unfairly shift the cost of repair to class members.
The models mentioned in the suit are the 2007-09 Mini Cooper R56 and the 2008-09 Mini Cooper R55. The alleged problem is a defect in the Mini’s timing chain tensioner, which maintains an appropriate tension of the engine’s timing chain. The timing chain controls the timing of the engine’s valves, but when the chain doesn’t have proper tension or synchronization, the engine’s pistons and valves collide with great force and the engine components suffer so much damage that the engine seizes and the vehicle loses all power, according to the complaint. The named Plaintiffs both bought new Mini Cooper S models in 2007 and allege that while the timing chains used in the Mini Cooper are meant to last about ten years or 120,000 miles, they encountered problems with their engines far sooner than expected. Mr. Skeen said he paid $3,288 in January to replace the car’s engine, which had logged a little more than 74,000 miles, and Mrs. Freeman said her timing chain tensioner was first replaced in July 2009 under warranty, but needed to be replaced again in February, costing her $1,381. She said at the time of the second replacement, her car had logged nearly 88,000 miles.
Most cars use rubber timing belts, but the timing chains used in the Mini are much more durable and expected to last the ten-year life of the car, according to the complaint. It was alleged that BMW advertised the timing chain as “maintenance-free” throughout the engine’s life. It was further alleged that according to the Mini maintenance program, the chain and tensioner don’t require service. But in reality, the complaint said the timing chain tensioner isn’t maintenance free, and that motorists have submitted complaints to NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation over safety concerns related to the engine defect. It’s also alleged that one such complaint was filed after a Mini engine quit just as a motorist was about to enter a highway. Others were said to have been filed by folks who had or narrowly avoided accidents when their cars quit in the middle of traffic.
The Plaintiffs contend BMW has been aware of the issue since at least January 2008, when it issued a technical service bulletin addressing the alleged problem. They also said the carmaker hasn’t recalled the affected vehicles to repair the defect or offered a suitable free replacement or repair. The complaint also alleges BMW hasn’t offered to reimburse class members or paid to repair their cars. The suit alleges breach of express and implied warranty claims and New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and Georgia and Illinois law violations.
The Plaintiffs are represented by: William J. Pinilis of PinilisHalpern; Raymond P. Boucher of the Law Office of Raymond P. Boucher; Paul R. Kiesel, Jeffrey A. Koncius and Maria L. Weitz from Kiesel & Larson and David Markun of Markun Zusman Compton. The case is styled Joshua Skeen and Laurie Freeman v. BMW of North America LLC, case No. 2:13-cv-01531 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
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