We asked you to submit your questions for BMW and here's what they had to say.
BMW SA has stated unequivocally that you will continue offering run-flat tyres as standard on all new models. However, several readers have commented that in local conditions, these tyres are unable to meet manufacturer claims that it is possible to drive with a puncture at speeds up to 80 km/h for up to 150 km. There are also claims that these tyres are seldom readily availability at tyre centres and the cost of replacement is too steep. Is BMW SA planning on doing anything to make this experience less frustrating for buyers?
BMW South Africa essentially pioneered the use of Runflat technology; an innovation that is being implemented by more and more manufacturers - proof that Runflat technology is the future of the tyre both in Europe and in South Africa.
In order to implement this sophisticated technology, BMW South Africa conducted extensive testing and development, along with the relevant tyre manufacturers, to ensure that the acceptable Runflat targets could be reached. These tests included the study of various factors that impact on tyre wear such as speed, load, road conditions, ambient temperature, braking and steering, to name but a few. Only once these extensive tests were completed, could a guideline be established to estimate the distance that one would be able to travel on a completely deflated Runflat tyre. These guidelines can be found in the owner's handbook of all BMW vehicles equipped with Runflat technology, but the general standard is 150km at a maximum speed of 80km/h.
However, several aspects determine whether or not this target is achievable. The following are some of the main factors:
BMW recommends a maximum speed of 80 km/h. Should this be exceeded, even for a short period of time, the possible Runflat range will be greatly reduced due to the additional exponential heat generation caused by the flexing of the sidewalls of the tyre.
A full guideline on how far one would be able to drive on a completely deflated tyre is available in the vehicle's owner's handbook. However, the basic principle is that the greater the load, the shorter the distance one would be able to travel.
Steering input and braking:
Violent or sudden braking and steering manoeuvres should be avoided as this can also negatively impact the Runflat range.
A general misconception is that one doesn't need to check Runflat tyre pressures since the vehicle is equipped with a Runflat indicator (RPA System). The purpose of this system is however to give advanced warning that one of the tyres is losing tyre pressure by measuring the relative wheel speed of each tyre. If pressures are not checked regularly, Runflat tyres lose pressure like normal tyres without the system picking up any relative difference in wheel speed. Thus the extended running of Runflat tyres in this sort of under-inflated condition will negatively impact the Runflat range should you lose pressure completely.
For this reason, BMW recommends that tyre pressures should be checked on a regular basis, i.e. at least twice a month as well as before setting out on any long journey.
Very importantly, it should be noted that the RPA system must be initialised whenever the pressures are adjusted. This is a very quick and easy operation that is also clearly described in the owner's manual.
As far as Runflat tyre availability is concerned, BMW SA is continuously involved in negotiations with the tyre suppliers and our dealers to put measures in place to increase the tyre availability country wide. Currently BMW dealers are carrying stock of Runflat tyres and increasing their carrying capacity all the time. In addition, BMW holds consignment stock of Runflat tyres distributed in strategic areas and BMW SA?s Parts Warehouse is increasing its stock holding. BMW South Africa has been instrumental in negotiations that are encouraging tyre outlets to increase their Runflat stocks. BMW SA is also currently in the process of localizing the manufacture of specific Runflat tyres with two major tyre suppliers. This will also assist with increased availability.
Furthermore, the entry into the market of other tyre manufacturers with Runflat technology will generate increased competitiveness which will have an impact on affordability. However, a Runflat tyre is approximately 10 to 20% more expensive than a normal tyre - a premium that more than pays for itself if you experience a puncture on a dark highway at night and can continue driving to safety.
After sales care also appears at the top of readers' lists of concerns with several issues, including workshop staff and their competence levels, waiting periods for servicing, the reliability and response times of BMW On Call, particularly on dangerous stretches of road, and general apathy being noted. What is BMW SA doing to make aspects of the ownership experience relating to this more pleasant?
BMW SA has always prided itself on offering world-class levels of service and meeting the demands of discerning customers. To this end, BMW South Africa is in the process of implementing a new Dealer Evaluation Program that will be used to target specific customer relevant aspects at the dealerships. This programme was started some time ago in an effort to ensure that our service levels keep up with a market that has expanded at an amazing rate.
Aspects of this new Program have been carefully considered and will address issues such as workshop competencies, service lead times and customer satisfaction. The project is in the implementation phase and further benefits that will allow BMW to reclaim its number one service position - a position held for more than 10 years - will be evident from June 2007 onwards.
BMW On Call was a pioneering initiative when it was introduced to the South African market. In the event of a customer's vehicle breaking down on the side of the road, BMW provides assistance by means of a BMW dealership Technician, or a towing service from BMW appointed service providers. However, there are some challenges faced by BMW in ensuring that help reaches the customer in the shortest possible time.
The authorities do not recognise BMW On Call vehicles, manned by BMW dealership Technicians, as emergency vehicles. These vehicles may not drive behind the yellow line or use their flashing lights while driving. Similarly, tow trucks do not enjoy the status of being treated as emergency vehicles and this can lead, especially during peak traffic volumes, to the On Call response taking potentially longer than we would like them to be.
BMW is constantly monitoring the performance of the On Call support structures and continuously improving them. For instance our towing service providers have recently bought additional tow trucks to ensure shorter response times, especially in the metropolitan areas where traffic congestion is becoming a major problem. These tow trucks will be positioned strategically in areas of major concerns such as the N1 in Gauteng.
BMW has for the most part adopted a policy of not using forced induction in its petrol engine development. Does the introduction of the twin turbocharged three-litre petrol unit signal a change in this thinking and can we expect future engines to follow a similar approach?
BMW has never been opposed to the concept of turbocharging - as far back as the late 1960s, BMW was one of the first German manufacturers to use turbo technology in the BMW 2002 Turbo; in the hands of racing drivers like Dieter Quester it was the giant killing sports saloon of the era.
However, the company adopted its policy of developing only normally aspirated engines because of the disadvantages inherent in previous turbo charger technology, and the incongruity of those disadvantages with BMW's single-minded focus on driving dynamics, excitement and spontaneity. Up until now, the benefits of turbocharging, namely lower engine weight and higher engine power, came at the expense of all of these other elements. Turbo lag, in particular, is something that is in direct opposition to BMW's philosophy of building driver's cars that respond instantaneously to the demands of the man or woman behind the wheel. And the high fuel consumption of previous turbo cars is contrary to BMW's strict Efficient Dynamics policy.
Today, through a combination of twin-turbo technology, high-tech materials developed for aerospace applications and BMW direct injection technology with High Precision Injection, we are now able to avoid the disadvantages experienced with previous turbo concepts and have developed an engine that has just been awarded three top accolades at the 2007 World Engine of the Year awards, namely "International Engine of the Year 2007", "Best New Engine of the Year 2007" and "Best Engine in 2.5 to 3.0-litre Capacity Class 2007".
For now, the use of turbocharging will be restricted to the top-of-the-range 225 kW version of the straight six engine, but a top-end engine featuring turbocharging with High Precision Injection is also conceivable for other engine series at some time in the future.
Has any of the technology developed by BMW for F1 made its way into your passenger cars? If yes, could you mention a few?
Formula One is the pinnacle of Motorsport and, as such, it is the perfect platform for showcasing BMW technology and expertise in an environment where the envelope of engineering is pushed to the very limits. However, this opportunity to show the world what we can do technologically is undertaken so that the innovations that work on the race track can be adapted to our road-going vehicles and offer customers significant benefits.
Since BMW returned to Formula One in 2000, several significant technologies, to name but a few, have bridged the gap between single-seat race car and passenger saloon:
At the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2002, BMW F1 pilots Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villenueve debuted an innovative Head-up Display on the inside of their helmets which is now available in BMW 5 and 6 Series and the BMW X5 as BMW Head-up Display.
The BMW M3 CSL (E46) was one of the first cars in the world to make use of Carbon Fibre (the main element of an F1 car due to its high strength and low weight) as an integral element of the body structure (the roof).
The V10 engine (three times winner of the International Engine Award for "Best Performance Engine of the Year" in 2005, 2006 and 2007) featured in the BMW M5 and M6 is a direct example of Formula One technology on the road. Developed as a showcase for BMW's involvement in F1, the V10 was designed with many of the principles that were used to design the P80, P81, P82 and P83 V10 F1 engines. With a maximum engine speed of 8 300 rpm, a piston speed of 20 metres per second (the F1 engine's piston speed is 25 metres per second), bed plate crank case design (taken directly from F1) and individual throttle butterflies (a Motorsport-specific but not F1 solution - an F1 car uses pneumatic valves instead of a throttle, similar in principle but not execution to BMW's Valvetronic system), the engine is mated to a seven-speed paddle-shift manual gearbox (as in F1) with Launch Control. The engine block is also cast at the Formula One Engine Foundry in Landshut, Germany.
Similarly, the new V8 engine featured in the upcoming BMW M3 (E92) has been developed with similar principles and is based on the new V8 F1 engines that the BMW Sauber F1 Team have used for the past two years. This engine also makes use of some additional lightweight F1 materials to rev to 8 400 rpm with a piston speed of 20 metres per second and is also cast at the F1 Engine Foundry in Landshut. Further F1 lessons will be incorporated into future BMW models.
How do you feel about the urban legend that BMW drivers are the most likely to avoid using their indicators, hog the fast lane, use their fog lamps in broad daylight, and generally drive like hooligans?
BMW prides itself, first and foremost, as being a responsible manufacturer with great respect for driving etiquette and the rules of the road. To this end, the company offers several solutions that can educate and enhance the skills of the drivers of our vehicles, and those of other brands for that matter, at BMW Driver Training, based at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Midrand.
Unfortunately there are a very small percentage of drivers that disobey the rules of the road and consequently distort the image of all drivers of specific brands - this is certainly not a BMW specific problem.
Finally, many thanks for all of your insightful and interesting questions and the opportunity to answer them. Unfortunately it's not possible to answer all product and speculative questions directly, but any genuine customer concerns have been passed onto the BMW Customer Care department for immediate action.
BMW South Africa
Wheels24 apologises for the delay in posting BMW SA's responses.