BMW sunroofs leak, class action claims

A crucial shortcoming in the "Ultimate Driving Machine," plaintiffs argue

You would think that a car that claims to be the ultimate in German engineering would at least keep you dry when it rains, but a class action suit says BMW fails the test.

Walter Chang and Annie Stubbs, in a federal suit filed in California, say that because of defects in design, the sunroofs on various BMW models leak, causing safety problems including stalling, electrical problems and loss of steering.

The two, whose suit seeks to represent owners and leasees of a long list of BMW models, say that BMW has washed its hands of the problem, leaving consumers to pay thousands of dollars to repair or replace the sunroofs and interior components ruined by water.

BMW has known about the problem since at least 1999, when consumers began bringing their water-logged cars to dealers for repair, the suit alleges.

Warranty expired

Chang, who lives in California, said he bought a 2006 BMW 530XI in December 2006. Water leaked into the car through the sunroof in 2010 and he took it to a BMW dealer in Mountain View, Calif., he said. The dealer said the warranty had expired and BMW refused to provide any relief, Chang said.

Chang alleges his car continued to flood and he had to have the sunroff repaired two more times.

Stubbs, who lives in Florida, said she bought a new BMW 535I in 2008 and, in 2012, the car was damaged by water leaking in through the sunroof. Like Chang, Stubbs went to a BMW dealer, who said the warranty had expired.

The suit charges that BMW violated various consumer protection laws by failing to act on the alleged defect and says it "actively concealed and failed to disclose" the problem to consumers who paid tens of thousands of dollars for their vehicles.

Chang and Stubbs say the problem occurs in "every single" vehicle covered by the lawsuit. They are represented by Stephen M. Harris, an attorney with the Knapp, Petersen and Clarke law firm.

No kid gloves

BMW does not exactly endear itself to customers who experience sunroof problems, judging from comments from consumers like "V" of San Francisco, who wrote to us last year:

"I contacted BMW customer relations as my sunroof was not closing properly. I had extended warranty but I received a follow-up call to notify me that BMW would not honor the repairs. My request for an additional escalation path was denied," V said. "I requested the physical street address for the corporate office in N.J., which I was also denied. BMW customer relations sucks big time!"

Sunroofs aside, warranty issues are a sore point with many of the consumers who post about their experiences, like Patrick of Monroe Township, N.J.

"I paid for a platinum extended warranty on my 2008 BMW X5 to extend coverage to 7 years or 100,000 miles. I did so because of the numerous major problems I had with the vehicle after initial purchase," he said. "During a routine service, I was told that I needed thrust bushings replaced at a cost of over $1,000.

"When I asked if they were covered under the platinum warranty they said no. I went to BMW's website and found that they ARE listed as covered," Patrick said. "When I pursued this with both the dealer and BMW USA, I was told that they are not covered if replacement is due to normal wear and tear, and that I failed to read the small print on their website. They said if it was a defect in the product they would cover it."

This was not exactly the answer Patrick wanted to hear.

"So I guess everything that I paid for under this contract is subjective based on their opinion. They do not even identify which items specifically are subject to this 'wear and tear' clause. So I guess if my navigation system breaks, they will claim I used it too much!"

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