Nearly 89,000 Mini brand cars, including the Mini Cooper line of vehicles, are being recalled in the U.S. because of faulty water pumps that can malfunction and potentially cause engine compartment fires.
The recall comes about three months after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a defects investigation, citing 12 reports of fires in the vehicles manufactured by BMW.
Five of the fires reportedly destroyed the cars, according to a NHTSA document. BMW said it is unaware of any injuries or accidents caused by pump malfunctions.
The vehicles being recalled include seven models of the Mini series, ranging in model years from 2007 to 2011. The company is recalling 235,535 worldwide, including 88,911 cars in the U.S.
"For us this is a pretty serious issue," BMW spokeswoman Nathalie Bauters said, noting that the company seldom issues full recalls.
Bauters said BMW will notify car owners by mail in February, and dealers will replace the water pumps free of charge.
The pump was designed to conduct heat away from the engine's turbocharger after the car is turned off. BMW, in a letter to NHTSA, said the pump's electronic circuit board can malfunction because of "certain design features" and in some cases overheat.
This can lead to the "smoldering of the water pump," BMW said. "It cannot be excluded that this may also lead to an engine compartment or vehicle fire."
Eric Noble, president of the CarLabs industry consulting firm in Orange, said BMW's reputation is unlikely to suffer much from the recall.
"I think this is relatively minor in terms of any impact it would have on Mini as a brand," Noble said.
"Mini buyers tend to love their Minis. This alone isn't going to change that."