Germany’s BMW Faces Sales Reporting Investigation in US

Luxury auto brand BMW is currently under investigation by the United States Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) over its sales reporting practices. It is just the latest in a running list of legal obstacles facing the Munich-based car company.  

This week, a spokesman for the German automaker confirmed the company has, indeed, been contacted by someone from the SEC. Furthermore, they attest, the carmaker is “co-operating fully with their investigation.”

At the same time, it was just a month ago that BMW noted the European Commission is “more likely than no” going to issue a significant fine over allegations that vehicle manufacturers had colluded in order to avoid competition when developing clean emission vehicles.  BMW vowed—and continues—to adamantly contest these charges. 

So it’s not like the company is unfamiliar with such scandals. 

The SEC move was originally reported by The Wall Street Journal who said, at the time, the regulator is investigating an industry practice known simply as “punching.”  This very well-known term refers to an unfair method of boosting sales statistics through dealerships buying cars ultimately as temporary replacements for car-buyers/owners whose vehicles are in repair; then these autos are sold soon after their first one or two temporary uses. 

As a matter of fact, Automotive News originally reported, in 2016, how former BMW North American chief Ludwig Willisch had, at one point, acknowledged that “punching” is common in the industry while simultaneously conceding he feels a lot of pressure within the company to elevate sales numbers. 

All this said, BMW has, so far, declined to comment on the actual SEC filing, and what they might be investigating, in particular. Of course, if we look back to the fine that the SEC issued to Italian-American carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—a $40 million settlement over misleading monthly US sales figures intended to deceive investors—it seems pretty clear where the SEC has placed their focus.