BMW owner gets Rs.6.35 lakh estimate for hybrid battery replacement

The BMW dealership was courteous and prompt, and accepted the car for checks, and got in touch with BWM Germany

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A BMW owner in Sweden was shocked to receive a cost estimate for battery replacement on his pre-owned 2017-model BMW 225 XE; the battery was deemed to have been exposed to abnormal/unusually high wear-and-tear, which results in zero insurance payout. The cost for the battery replacement? SEK 80000 or INR 6.35L.

A pre-owned car:

The 2017 car was bought pre-owned, by Anders, and his wife, in 2020, and they were very happy with it, and hoped to be able to use it for a good while. The car had done over 1L kilometers, but that’s hardly a huge thing on Swedish roads. The car had been serviced only at BMW approved service stations, and within the correct service intervals, and was in great shape, but for the problem with the hybrid battery.

The problem with the hybrid battery:

Within a few months of purchasing the car, Anders observed that 7.6 kWh battery with an NEDC claimed mileage of 41 km was barely managing 15 km, even when fully charged. Anders wasn’t overly concerned, as his service station had told him that the battery was covered under an 8 years warranty, and he’d also filed a claim with his insurance provider, under the engine/major component replacement header.

Initial response from BMW dealership in Sweden:

The BMW dealership was courteous and prompt, and accepted the car for checks, and got in touch with BWM Germany, who seemed rather interested in the case. Upon BMW Germany’s insistance, they requested Anders to allow them to retain the car for three more days for additional testing.

The verdict from BMW:

Much to Anders’ consternation, it was pointed out to him that while the battery did have an 8 year warranty, the warranty also had a mileage clause which limited the warranty to 100000 km (1L km), which the car had already exceeded. They further told him that the battery exhibited signs of abnormally high wear and tear, which negated the possibility of claiming damages from the insurance provider. The solution was a replacement of the hybrid battery, the cost of which would be SEK 80000 (6.35L INR) and Anders would have to bear the entire cost from his own pocket!

Anders’ reaction”:

Anders was obviously shocked at the turn of events, and wrote to the country head of BMW in Sweden, and even sent in a reminder, all to no avail. After another few months of radio silence from BMW, Anders got in touch with Auto, Motor, and Sport magazine in Sweden, the editor of which was immediately interested in Anders’ case.

The motor magazine gets involved:

With the editor of the motor magazine personally following up the case with his contacts, BMW issued a response noting that they felt that the battery in question shouldn’t require replacement during the life of the car, and that the issue was likely a result of defective cell modules in the battery, and that BMW would stand for the cost of the battery replacement.

The aftermath:

The battery on Anders’ 225 XE was indeed replaced without charge (pun not intended!), thanks to BMW, but the incident showed that private individuals often get the short end of the stick when it comes to warranty claims. The involvement of popular media forced BMW to take prompt action, to avoid negative publicity.

Additional points of interest:

The battery was technically out of warranty, with the car having clocked more than 1L km mileage, but BMW went ahead with the replacement without cost while admitting that the battery likely always had a defective module. Clearly this admission of guilt and free battery replacement wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the involvement of the media. How would it be, in countries like India, where warranty policies are deliberately vague, and warranties don’t mention the exact amount of degradation in capacity a battery must suffer, before it would be eligible to be replaced under warranty? With both hybrids and EVs getting more popular and prevalent in India, and due to the rather limited time the technology has been present in India for, only when the issues start cropping up will people get to know if warranty claims are a simple matter, or something they have to spend considerable time and potentially money, litigating for. This also raises the point of the need to do thorough homework before buying a pre-owned EV or hybrid vehicle. Given the cost of batteries, buying a pre-owned EV or hybrid is nowhere as simple as buying a pre-owned ICE vehicle. Go through the warranty fine print thoroughly before going for that deal that seems too good to be true.

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