16 Crashes Found in BMW 7 Series Probe; Engineering Analysis Next

By Jacob Brown | April 16, 2012
A federal probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has led to the investigation of 16 crashes, five of which resulted in injuries, in 2002 to 2008 BMW 7 Series sedans for transmission control problems. The NHTSA had begun researching the crashes last August because the cars' electronic transmission controls could allow the vehicles to unexpectedly roll away and crash. Owners apparently thought their cars were in park when they were instead in neutral. Of the 122,000 previous-generation BMW 7 Series sold in the U.S., the automaker and the NHTSA have received complaints from 50 different sources. The NHTSA recently reclassified the investigation to an engineering analysis to check out possible causes. The next step would be a recall.
With the 2002 to 2008 BMW 7 Series, BMW relocated its transmission shifter from the center console to a stalk behind the steering wheel. To get a car into "drive," owners had to pull the stalk down. But instead of pushing it all the way up to put the car into "park," as you would in your father's old Buick, drivers had to push a button on the stalk's side. We can see where some confusion could lead to error.
Along with mounds of other technological envelope-pushing, BMW has drawn complaints for its ergonomics to accommodate its new electronics. Although safety shouldn't be left on a back burner, we can see how a possibly older clientele, or someone simply not experienced with the BMW 7 Series sedan's new-fangledness, could easily be confused by the transmission. But should it warrant the engineering analysis and possible recall? Source: Detroit News