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No recall yet in ongoing BMW safety probe

U.S. safety regulators April 16 upgraded their ongoing

U.S. safety regulators April 16 upgraded their ongoing probe of BMW 7-Series cars in model years 2002-2008 to an engineering analysis, still shy of a recall. Above, a BMW 745i. Credit: Handout

U.S. safety regulators have found 16 crashes and five injuries in an eight-month investigation of transmission control problems with BMW 7-Series luxury cars.

The cars have push-button start and electronic transmission controls. In some cases the owners may think the cars are in park when they actually are in neutral. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents on its website Monday that the cars can roll away unexpectedly and crash.

The agency began the probe in August and has now upgraded it to an engineering analysis, which is a step closer to a recall. However the cars have not been recalled.

The investigation covers nearly 122,000 BMWs from the 2002 through 2008 model years; 1,732 of the affected cars were registered on Long Island as of April 2011, according to R.L. Polk & Co.

BMW is cooperating in the investigation, spokesman Dave Buchko said Monday.

NHTSA said in the documents that BMW and investigators have received 50 complaints about the problem.

In one case, the driver of a 2002 745LI told NHTSA that the car was parked at a day-care center when it rolled about 40 yards and crashed into an embankment in March 2010. No one was hurt.

In another complaint, a driver reported that he parked his 2006 750 model BMW and it was supposed to automatically shift to park when he touched the stop-start button to turn off the car. Instead, after he left the car, it rolled backward about 100 feet and crashed into a lamppost, he told NHTSA. No one was injured in the February 2007 incident.

"The dealer stated they are unable to diagnose the failure," the man told NHTSA.

Federal safety regulators do not release the names of people who file complaints.

NHTSA said it upgraded the investigation to an engineering analysis "to further assess the potential safety consequences of the alleged defect."

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