If you watch the news in any capacity, you know that recalls among automakers are fairly common. Most of the time it’s for something small, but sometimes it becomes a major safety concern like the Takata airbag recall. This latest recall from BMW blurs the line and issue a recall for a major safety concern regarding something rather small.
The car behind the recall is the BMW i3, the electric city car meant to take on the likes of the Nissan Leaf and GM’s Volt. However, the recall — and resulting sale stoppage in the US — is rather peculiar.
According to the NHTSA, the BMW i3 fails to meet certain regulations regarding frontal crash protection. Sounds serious, but there’s a qualifier: these passengers need to be fifth centile females, meaning about 110 lbs and around five feet tall.
Oh, and they also need to be to be in the front seat and not wearing their seatbelt. We know how that sounds; it seems rather odd that a recall takes into account the safety of passengers not using a mandatory safety device.
It turns out though that it’s not always mandatory in the USA. One state, New Hampshire, doesn’t require the use of a seat belt for front passengers. Its population makes up about 0.4% of the total population of the USA. New Hampshirites also buy fewer than a thousand EVs a year, only a small portion of which are the i3. Obviously, this is because they aren’t Subaru Outbacks or Volvo station wagons.
So why is BMW issuing a recall for all 30,000 of its EVs? For starters, there are regulations in the US that require vehicles to meet a certain standard, even for unbuckled passengers. It may seem strange, but like many regulations, you need to look at the lowest common denominator.
There’s also the potential for a lawsuit. Say after finding out the issue BMW didn’t bother to fix it and it led to the death of a small, lightweight women. That opens up a massive can of worms that no manufacturer wants to be involved with — especially after the fiasco GM is going through with the ignition switches. In a lawsuit heavy society, there’s no room to simply skip over a known issue.
BMW is currently working on a fix to solve the issue that doesn’t involve telling people to just buckle up. It did put out a statement though saying that the i3 is completely safe if you use your seat belt.
If you happen to own a BMW i3 and choose not to belt up, then keep in mind you might end up seriously injured in an accident. However if, like a majority of the population, you choose to buckle you have nothing to worry about.