NewsTeam 10 Investigates


San Diego BMW owners say their used BMWs suddenly caught fire

The Ohmes and Pearsons' BMWs were recently bought.
Posted at 1:27 PM, Mar 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-29 13:17:39-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A San Diego couple is challenging a luxury carmaker after their BMW SUV suddenly caught on fire.

The Pearsons said they bought a BMWx5 in August 2018 because they thought it would be safe and reliable. In December, they replaced the battery at BMW of Escondido. The next month, Lisa Pearson was driving on Interstate 15 when she noticed a warning light showing an airbag and parking brake error. She pulled over and noticed smoke coming from the back of the car.

“It happened so fast,” Lisa said. A fire had started from the rear of her vehicle. A passing tow truck driver stopped to help put out the smoke and flames. Firefighters told her it could have been a different story if her children were inside in their car seats.

“It was really nerve wracking,” Lisa said. “I was really thankful since I saw that the fire was happening in the back of the car that the kids weren’t there.”

They said their SUV was a total loss. It was after the fire that the Pearsons ran into even more problems.

When BMW of North America inspected the vehicle, they blamed it on “an improperly secured connection of the battery cable." In the letter to the Pearsons dated February 29, 2019, Executive Customer Care Representative Michael Pigoncelli wrote, “BMW NA cannot accept responsibility for any damage, injury, or loss associated with the fire…”

BMW of Escondido disagreed with corporate’s allegations, writing to the Pearsons that “the repair was done as per the BMW guidelines.”

“It just seems that they’re pointing fingers at each other. Nobody cares about us or the consumer,” said Ryan Pearson.

“It was still under factory warranty,” Lisa added, saying they hadn't even had it for five months. “What’s it going to take? Does someone need to die?”

The Pearsons are not the only local couple to have their BMW catch fire. In October 2017, Laura Ohme said her parked BMW started a fire at the Torrey Hills homes where she lived with her family.

She was in the shower when she heard a strange noise. “I just hear this really really weird popping kind of noises,ll ” Ohme said.

With her two kids asleep in their rooms, she threw on a towel to find out what was going on. She went downstairs and saw smoke. “The door itself [was] literally black and glowing.”

Ohme grabbed her two children and ran outside the house. “The fire, it was raging at that point,” she said.

Fire investigators determined her recently purchased 2014 BMWx5 started the fire. It was a certified pre-owned vehicle she bought just a few months before. Ohme said the vehicle was sitting in the garage and turned off at the time of the fire.

"I didn’t even put 5,000 miles on the car,” Ohme said. She said BMW has had a “non-response” to the situation.

“BMW is not taking responsibility,” she added.

While the Ohmes and Pearsons’ fires started under different circumstances, they shared things in common. Both BMWx5s were recently purchased just a few months before the fires. They both had warranties and neither vehicle was under a recall.

ABC News started investigating mysterious BMW fires in 2017. Like the Ohmes, dozens involved vehicles that were parked and turned off. Since then, about 1.6 million BMWs have been recalled for fire risk. A BMW spokesperson told Team 10: "BMW notifies owners of vehicles affected by a recall via registered mail to advise them that their vehicle is part of an upcoming recall campaign and what the next steps are. BMW recently expanded its recall notification system for vehicles built after 3/2016 to allow owners to also be notified through the BMW Connected App on their smartphone. A vehicle recall may require that a part be replaced or software be updated."

A spokesperson for BMW of North America told Team 10 they could not comment on the Ohme’s situation “due to litigation.” The Ohmes' attorney told me they are preparing a class-action lawsuit for the damages caused by the BMW fires.

“I was able to get myself and my children out safely, but at some point someone is going to die,” she said.

Regarding the Pearsons, BMW of North America wrote on March 22nd that they still believe the Pearsons’ vehicle caught fire because of “an improperly tightened battery terminal after a recent battery service.”

The spokesperson added: “BMW is currently working with the dealer and the owner to resolve the matter.”

In an email on March 22nd, a few days after Team 10 first contacted BMW of Escondido, the service manager wrote he “sent the Pearsons claim and contact info for [their] insurance company” and instructed their insurance to settle her claim as quickly as possible. They still disagree with BMW of North America’s findings.

“We can’t let this go on and hurt other people,” said Ryan.

“You are saying you are a very high quality company that sells very luxury cars, and yet your cars are catching fire. Those two do not go hand in hand,” Lisa said.

If you want to check your vehicle for any open recalls, you can click on this link: