Transmission Failures Plague BMW Owners

Ultimate driving machines, but not in reverse

BMW owners find themselves facing thousands of dollars in transmission repair bills while the highly profitable German automaker refuses to accept any responsibility for the mounting number of failures.

"We are unaware of any widespread concern regarding the transmission. However, the actual length of life of any given vehicle part is dependent on a number of factors including care, maintenance, use, and climate," BMW AG wrote to the owner of a 2000 3 series sedan.

The reports being filed with are similar and describe a transmission that hesitates or refuses to be shifted into reverse.

"Lost reverse gear on my 2001 330Ci convertible at about 53,000 miles," wrote Don from Dayton, Ohio. "The car has an automatic transmission and repair costs at a local dealership was $4,048," he told

Don wrote to BMW "several times but got no resolution to the problem," he said. "Numerous other people have complained of this problem with BMW automatic transmissions but BMW refuses to correct the problem," he told us.

BMW owners report that the expensive transmission failures show up most often in 3 series cars as well as the X3 and X5 BMW SUVs.

Robert began having problems with the transmission in his X5 In Lawrenceville, Georgia about a month before the transmission failed altogether. "I purchased my 2002 BMW X5 new 5 years ago and it has 89,000 miles," he wrote.

"About a month ago, we started experiencing problems with the transmission. I called my local dealer, and they pretty much told me this was normal behavior and not to worry about it. The next day, the transmission completely failed while going up a hill and the car started rolling backwards while in drive," Robert told us.

Jason owns a 2000 BMW 323i sedan in Brooklyn, New York. "It is in excellent condition. However, last night I put the car in reverse and it would not back up at all. The car has only 38,000 miles on it. It has no problem with the drive function," he said.

Pat in Durango, Colorado can't find reverse either. "I have a 2000 BMW 320ci. It has less than 36,000 miles. I have kept it meticulously serviced and don't even drive it during the snowy months of the year. Today, I proceed to back out of my parking space at work and the car will not go into reverse."

Katie in Raleigh, North Carolina can't back up either. "I am floored," she wrote "I just hit 100K this past week and not 4 miles after the 100K mark, my meticulously well-taken-care-of BMW will not shift into reverse!"

Katie's BMW dealer told her that this was "the first they had ever heard of the problem." "I am extremely angry and feel very much taken advantage of by the folks at BMW who have made the decision not to recall this model or make the necessary payments to cover the cost of repair considering they have known all along this could happen," she said.

Despite the hundreds of reports citing similar problems, BMW stands by its denial.

"During the life of a vehicle, it is natural to expect that some parts may have to be replaced due to mechanical failures, or normal wear and tear. For this reason, we do not have an estimated life expectancy for components or parts of a vehicle," the company said.

That includes the transmission, according to the official BMW company line.

The automaker set a new sales record in 2006, posting 3.5 percent growth over 2005. The 3 series is far and ahead the company's best-selling group, helping to make BMW the most profitable automaker in the world.

The automaker's message to BMW owners in the U.S. stuck with a faulty transmission is perhaps one reason profits continue to climb at a record pace.

BMW sends inquiring owners with a broken transmission a stock response, saying that the company apologizes "for the issues and inconvenience you have experienced with this BMW. We are unaware of any widespread concern regarding the transmission."

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