BMW has now restricted the sale of some components that they deem theft relevant.

How is that legal?

Doesn’t the Magnuson-Moss act state that when a manufacturer requires that their part be used, that it must be supplied for free? This is what gives independent repair shops the right to install aftermarket parts without voiding the manufacturer’s warranty.

How can you steal or jeopardize the security of a customer’s vehicle by installing a new EWS* module? This module reads the customer’s key and verifies its authenticity, then checks the data in several modules to make sure thay all match the vehicle’s VIN# and then lets the vehicle start. We have the equipment and knowledge to install a new EWS and have done many in the past. When installing this module it must be learned or aligned with the other modules in the vehicle and the ignition key. The module can only be used on one vehicle. It “marries” itself to the VIN# and cannot be used on another vehicle. A used EWS module cannot be used.

BMW gives their explanation why they want their vehicle to be theft proof, and it is a valid point: lower insurance costs. A more secure (harder to break into and/or steal) vehicle will lower insurance costs. Lower insurance costs will in turn lower the vehicle’s cost of ownership. A lower cost of ownership will attract more buyers and result in the sale of more vehicles.

How is an EWS module going to jeopardize the security of a vehicle? The only way that I can imagine to break into or steal a vehicle with an EWS module is to throw it through a window to gain acess to the vehicle! Are bricks and spark plugs going to now be on the theft relevant parts list? What is next? This seems like a tactic to force owners to return to the factory dealerships for repairs. This should not be legal. I have lost many sales and customers due to this policy.



EWS: Electronic Watchdog System. Holds a changing rolling code combination in the ignition key, which talks to the immobiliser and if codes match and are verified the vehicle is allowed to start.

Here’s a complaint from an independent repair shop in New York on the government’s NASTF web site and BMW’s response to the complaint. You can see that BMW’s answer is valid, but it doesn’t explain why a EWS module should fall into the theft relevant part category.

Reported by: Jack from New York Monday, June 15, 2009
Status: Closed / Response Received Monday, June 15, 2009
Manufacturer: BMW
Visited Site: BMW Dealers Monday, January 1, 1900
Contacted: Monday, June 15, 2009
Contact Number: 718 229-3636
Info Requested: BMW dealer’s refuse to sell EWS immobilizer module and ignition keys.
Contact Response: Hello, I’ve experienced the same problem as another IATN member. When I read BMW’s murky response from previous complains it does not make any sense at all. We are registered and licensed repair facility in business for over 20 years. We replace immobilizer modules and ignition keys for Audi, VW, Mercedes and all domestic vehicles. How can the same type of service for BMW vehicles jeopardize BMW customer’s security? EWS modules and keys are VIN specific and none will be sold to anyone before the VIN, copy of registration and owner’s ID is presented. (key must be “cut” and module programmed according to VIN) I have customer’s permission, all paperwork and still can’t buy it. In addition there are no restrictions for the sale of engine control modules! Applying same logic engine controller should be “security item” as it shares information with EWS! I am not sure what is a real reason for refusing to sale EWS modules and keys. For BMW owners this is one more unnecessary hassle. Especially when their vehicle is already in repair shop. And this certainly is not an incentive for next BMW vehicle purchase. I’d support any legal option to force BMW to release such “security” items to registered independent repair facilities.

NASTF Notes and Status Changes

On 06/29/2009 at 06:51:53, Mary Hutchinson (NASTF) noted:

Mr. Karczmarz: Thank you for your recent NASTF information request. The BMW Group supports the rights of owners to have the choice to decide where and how to have their BMW Group vehicles repaired and serviced. However, due to our commitment to safeguard the security of our owners’ vehicles we are unable to provide the parts you have requested.

This is our policy worldwide and is a focused restriction we believe is very necessary for the safety and security of our owners and their personal property. In the past, premium vehicles, such as our vehicles, were special targets of thieves and led to elevated theft rates. This cost our owners significantly higher insurance rates, countless hours of aggravation, loss of personal property, including personal identifying data left in vehicles, and fear for their safety if a thief would visit their home.

As a result, BMW vehicle owners were negatively affected and our company’s reputation was damaged. We believe sales were lost. You may be familiar with the derogatory phrase “BMW means Break My Window” and can imagine our interest in changing that perception. To address BMW vehicle thefts and damage to our reputation, our company invested enormous resources into designing and equipping our cars with the most state-of-the-art anti-theft technology. Double locks, stronger glass, high tech keys, electronic immobilizers, enhanced data security, mechanism shields, and other countermeasures were implemented. The result is that today thefts of BMW Group vehicles have dropped dramatically worldwide, and our owners have tremendously benefited. We are convinced that our countermeasures, coupled with our security practices, have played a major role in reducing thefts. The EWS and CAS control modules on BMW vehicles are an integral component of the vehicle security system and have been a key tool in reducing the theft of BMW vehicles since 1995.

In fact, BMW vehicles are among the most difficult to steal, and we are confident that our customers and our customers’ insurers appreciate that fact. No independent or dealer in the world is able to encode a EWS or CAS control module or a key. The BMW Group encodes all EWS and CAS control modules and keys. This is a secure process in an age of electronic hackers and global theft rings. However, the sale of the encoded EWS and CAS control modules to independents for installation on vehicles outside of authorized dealerships would not provide security for our customers and their vehicles. These are among the reasons that we cannot provide you with a favorable response. I trust you will understand our need to safeguard this information in the interest of our owners’ security. Access to information for repairs is an important issue. We would be happy to work with you on how we can better support organizations like yours with non-theft relevant components and service. Vehicle Security Team BMW of North America, LLC (on behalf of the BMW Group)

Status: Closed / Response Received