Even though nearly every state in the US requires a seatbelt, automakers must still recall vehicles for problems related to unbelted passengers, which is what BMW is currently doing.
BMW has issued a recall for every i3 electric city car that has been sold in the US since its introduction in the 2014 model year, which comes out to approximately 30,542 cars. BMW also issued a stop-sale for i3 models currently in the pipeline, whether that'sor 2017s currently at dealers.
The problem relates to the vehicle's crashworthiness. Apparently, women in the fifth percentile of body size (approximately 5 feet tall and weighing 110 pounds) are slightly more likely to suffer a neck injury during a frontal collision if they're not wearing their seatbelt. It's a very small edge case, and it requires a person to not be wearing a seatbelt, but either way, the vehicle is ever so slightly outside of federal regulations.
It's important to note that seatbelts are mandatory in 49 out of 50 US states -- New Hampshire is the only state without an adult seatbelt law on the books, although there is a law that covers drivers and passengers under the age of 18.
It doesn't appear that there is a clear-cut solution available. Problems with crash tests generally require adjustments to more than a car's body panels, which means remedying this issue might be complicated -- and expensive. In a statement, BMW said a remedy is forthcoming, but it did not elaborate on what the fix is, or how long it will take to implement.
In the meantime, if you happened to be looking forward to picking up a refreshed-for-2018 i3, you might be waiting a little longer than expected. If you happen to own a BMW i3, be smart and buckle up, no matter what percentile you fall into.
BMW's full statement is below:
BMW has a long, well-documented history of pursuing the highest levels of active and passive safety. In a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash test of the BMW i3 -- specifically the unbelted small adult rigid barrier test (NHTSA's 5th percentile female), the driver seat occupant sustained loads marginally above the limit.
While BMW's compliance testing showed results well below the required limits, more recent testing has shown inconsistent results. Consequently, BMW has issued a recall and is working with the agency to understand the differences in the test results. A remedy is forthcoming.
The BMW passive safety systems are optimized for safety belt use. BMW i3 owners should feel confident that their vehicle will perform well in a real world crash when the safety belt is used. BMW recommends that all vehicle occupants fasten their safety belts before driving, and keep them fastened for the duration of travel.
Customers with questions may contact BMW Customer Relations at 1-800-525-7417, or email CustomerRelations@bmwusa.com.