Steve Cajigas, the owner of Steve's First Class Barbers, went to pick up his niece and nephew to take them for pizza for Sunday, but the only thing they saw cooking was uncle Steve's car.
His 2015 BMW 535i, with only 40,000 miles on it, had a smell of burning rubber permeating the inside of the car as he parked it in front of his sister's house. Then some smoke started to come through the vents so he shut it off. And quickly went in the house to get a couple of buckets of water, thinking it was overheating.
But when he came back out of the house a couple of minutes later, he was stunned.
"I have three nephews and a niece and we are there watching my car just go up in flames," Cajigas said. "You know, it looked like Grand theft auto."
A recent ABC News investigative report revealed at least 40 BMWs nationwide had been destroyed by fire under similar circumstances when the cars were not running
"When does it become a problem? when someone's children, when someone's children are in a fire or when someone's house burned down, which I believe has happened," said Cajigas.
A BMW spokesperson said the company has investigated the fires brought to their attention by the ABC report and has "not seen any pattern related to product defect."
"We are talking about a two-year-old car that was under full warranty and was leased for the reason of having that security and that feeling that nothing's going to happen," said Cajigas.
He said had the car serviced two weeks ago at BMW of Bridgeport, from whom he leased the vehicle. A local mechanic says numerous things could have ignited the fire, even with the engine off, including a fuel leak.
"You turn the car off and there still a lot of things running and you have a very slow leak in the fuel line or an O ring and a fuel injector, that's a bomb waiting to happen," said Gary Dulin, of Dulin Automotive, in Milford.
BMW of North America Spokesperson, Andrew Schmuck, send the following statement:
" We at BMW empathize with anyone who has experienced a vehicle fire. We understand it is a traumatic event and the safety of our customers is of utmost importance to us.
BMW has a long reputation for engineering excellence and is known as a pioneer in safety technology. We have full confidence in our products and strive to always provide the best possible owner’s experience.
With approximately 4.9 million BMW vehicles on U.S. roads, fire incidents involving BMWs are extremely rare. BMW takes every incident very seriously and has a team dedicated to work with BMW owners, insurance companies and authorities to investigate vehicle fire incidents brought to our attention.
We have investigated and, where still possible, inspected the vehicles identified by ABC News. These vehicles span an age range of 1-15 years, accumulated mileage of up to 232,250 miles, multiple generations and model types. In cases that we have inspected and are able to determine root causes, we have not seen any pattern related to quality or component failure. Vehicle fires can result from a wide variety of external reasons and can range from improper accident damage repair, previous vehicle flooding, lack of, or improper preventative maintenance, rodent nesting, unauthorized modifications to the vehicle (such as remote starters, stereo installations, etc.) and even arson.
Our Customer Relations team is always happy to assist customers with any questions or concerns about their BMW and can be reached email@example.com or at 800-831-1117.
In regard to process and procedure, when there is a fire we can only investigate the car when made aware and asked to do so by the owners insurance company."