BMW's Big Recall: 'It's All About the Scheduling'

Automotive News Print Version

May 9, 2014

On the surface, the math of BMW's big recall is daunting for the company's 339 U.S. dealerships.

The company recalled 156,137 vehicles in April, about six months' worth of U.S. sales for the German luxury brand. That's about 460 vehicles per store.

Of course, stores in small markets probably won't see that many vehicles. But, service departments in BMW's largest markets, such as Miami, Los Angeles and New York, could be overwhelmed.

"It's all about the scheduling," says Frank De Varona, assistant service manager at Vista BMW, a large dealership in Pompano Beach, Fla. He plans to arrange appointments so no vehicles are left overnight. Eighteen of 25 service bays will be reserved for recall work.

The time required for the repair, replacing faulty camshaft bolts, ranges from two to four hours per vehicle, depending on the model and the extent of the damage.

Technicians will replace four bolts in the engine's variable valve timing system on all vehicles. The entire variable valve system, which includes camshaft sprockets and chains, will be replaced if any of the bolts have sheared off.

The loose or broken bolts diminish performance or, in some cases, cause severe engine damage, said Julian Arguelles, a BMW spokes-man. The recall covers BMWs with six-cylinder engines sold in the 2010-12 models years.

BMW is sending letters this month to customers to tell them that their vehicles are affected. A second letter, likely to be mailed by early June, will let them know that repair parts have arrived at dealerships and will ask them to schedule a service appointment.

When the second letter arrives, De Varona of Vista BMW expects the phones to light up and customers without appointments to show up.

But De Varona said he has handled high-volume recalls before, and he is confident this one will go smoothly with proper scheduling.

De Varona said each of the 18 service bays set aside for recall repair work should be able to handle about three recalled cars a day.

The store's seven-day-a-week service hours give customers flexibility.

Vista's weekend service hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sundays.

BMW predicts that the recall will go smoothly.

"We don't expect huge numbers of customers arriving at the dealer at the same time, and we don't expect consumers waiting [for their vehicles] for several days," said Arguelles, the BMW spokesman.

But there is a wild card: BMW customers who show up for the recall repair without an appointment.

At Vista BMW, De Varona will handle them with a courtesy shuttle, loaner cars and cars from two rental car companies.

He says: "With something like this, you gotta keep 'em happy."

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