BMW is recalling 200,000 cars and small SUVs because the front passenger-side airbag could fail.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warned that in some of the recalled BMWs it is possible that "the front passenger airbags will not deploy even if a sufficiently severe accident would occur."
The recalled BMWs include the 2004 to 2005 5-Series standard and sport seat models, the 2004 to 2006 X3 and the 2006 3-Series with sport seats.
NHTSA reported on its Web site that the passenger-side airbags can deactivate because of wear associated with a passenger getting in and out of the vehicle.
"Depending on the manner and frequency of the front passenger's entry and exit, small cracks have developed in the (sensor) mat. If this occurs, the front passenger airbags, with the exception of the head protection system, will be deactivated," the agency warned.
BMW dealers will repair the sensor system in the passenger seat when the recall begins in late September. BMW will extend the warranty for airbags on the recalled vehicles "to 10 years from the first registration without any mileage limit," according to NHTSA.
The warranty extension covers the 2006 6-Series, 3-Series with a standard seat, 2004 to 2005 Z4, 2004 to 2006 7-Series, 2006 X5 and 2004 to 2006 5-Series with a comfort seat.
"Under the extended warranty program, the occupant detection mat in a vehicle that experiences this specific issue will be replaced at not charge to the customer," NHTSA advises on its Web site.
NHTSA began investigating airbags failures in the BMW earlier this year when the Office of Defect Investigation reported that "the passenger frontal airbag may malfunction and render the passenger airbag inoperative."
The models included in the initial investigation were the 2004 to 2006 BMW 5 and 7 series sedans, Z4 convertibles and X3 SUVs, as well as 2006 BMW 3 and 6 series cars and X5 SUVs.
NHTSA reported "729 non-duplicating owner reports and 23,739 non-duplicating warranty claims" prompted the investigation or engineering analysis.
BMW owners can contact the automaker at 1-800-525-7417 or NHTSA at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153).