BMW’s ‘defective’ tires leave consumers flat, suit says

BMW of North America sold cars with defective wheels and refused to honor its own warranty for the necessary repairs, according to a class-action lawsuit in California federal court.

Barry Jekowsky filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of himself and other California owners and lessors of 2007-2012 BMW Z4 models equipped with the allegedly defective alloy wheels.

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Jekowsky says the wheels are prone to cracking, which can lead to a loss of control while driving, necessitating repair or replacement of the wheel and often the tire.

He says BMW has refused to honor its standard four-year/50,000 mile warranty to cover the cost of repairs, blaming the cracks on drivers rather than a covered wheel defect.

But it is clear, according to the complaint, that the widespread, long-lasting problem is attributable to the automaker’s use of a substandard alloy in making the wheels.

BMW knew about the defect well before Jekowsky and others purchased their cars, the suit says.

(Westlaw users: Click here for the complaint.)

The plaintiff alleges consumers made numerous complaints to BMW and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that BMW had received a multitude of warranty service requests and that watchdog groups reports have called attention to the problem.

Jekowsky says a 2009 British Broadcasting Corp. report led to complaints of wheel cracks from more than 300 drivers.

The plaintiff claims BMW’s European Division stopped distributing alloy wheels in England and reversed its course of not honoring warranty claims for the wheels.  BMW-Europe even agreed to refurbish the wheels as long as they did not show evidence of excessive driver inflicted injury, he says.

Jekowsky says he was forced in September 2012 to replace a wheel and tire on his own 2011 BMW Z4 after fewer than 19,300 miles of use, when an authorized BMW dealer found numerous cracks in the rear wheel.

Just three months later, at 23,000 miles, another wheel developed cracks, necessitating wheel and tire replacement, the complaint says.  Jekowsky says he has spent more than $2,000 for the work.

The suit charges BMW with violating the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301; the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 1790; the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 1750; and California’s unfair-competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200.

Jekowsky seeks class certification, injunctive and declaratory relief, damages, restitution, interest, and attorney fees, and costs.

Jekowsky v. BMW of North America LLC, No. 13-cv-02158, 2013 WL 4051204, complaint filed (N.D. Cal. July 13, 2013).