No more BMW police cars: German brand halts sales to UK forces

BMW is to prioritise sales to retail and corporate customers as supply chain issues continue to be felt

BMW 3 Series police car

BMW will no longer be supplying police cars to forces in the UK. The company confirmed to Auto Express that its Park Lane dealership in Mayfair will be restructured, including the International & Specialist Sales Division based there that has historically been responsible for handling specialist vehicle sales.

The change has been made amid ongoing supply chain issues for the automotive industry, including the global shortage of semiconductors. BMW is prioritising sales to retail and corporate customers as a result of this, although Auto Express understands this announcement applies only to the UK.

The full statement issued by BMW UK reads: “With high demand for our cars continuing to outstrip supply, we will be prioritising sales to our retail and corporate customers in the future and moving away from some areas of our authorities and specialist business.

“BMW Park Lane has historically been responsible for specialist vehicle sales and so now is being restructured. It is proposed that some responsibilities will move into the BMW UK National Sales Company in Farnborough. BMW Park Lane is now entering into a consultation period with a small number of impacted staff.”

The news, which was first reported by trade publication Car Dealer magazine, comes one year after police forces around the UK were instructed not to use BMW patrol cars fitted with the brand’s N57 engine in any high-speed pursuits due to safety concerns.

Neither BMW nor the police would specify what the issue was at the time, but BMW was adamant that it didn’t affect civilian cars and was only due to the “particular way in which the police operate these high-performance vehicles”. 

BMW police car crash inquest

The N57 engine issue was linked to the tragic death of PC Nicholas Dumphreys, of Cumbria Police on January 26, 2020. The officer's BMW patrol car crashed on the M6 motorway and an inquest into the fatal accident in 2022 heard that a faulty crankshaft bearing had broken loose and punctured the oil sump causing a fire in the N57 engine. 

Reporting from Lancs Live shows that BMW had been aware of the potential problem in 2016, at which time there had been five to seven similar incidents in the previous two years. The inquest suggested the series of faults could be attributed to particular factors associated with police vehicles - namely cars with high mileage that experience extended engine idling time often followed by sharp acceleration. 

The inquest also revealed that in 2016 BMW UK prompted BMW head office in Germany to investigate the incidents and tests were carried out by engineers at the firm's factory in Steyr, Austria. They identified the cause as poor lubrication resulting from ageing and degrading engine oil.

As a result, BMW UK were instructed to advise UK police forces using N57 engined models to upgrade the oil used and shorten oil change intervals to 10,000 miles on all police cars. The advice was passed via the voluntary National Association of Police Fleet Managers, but Cumbria Police is not a member of this body. BMW confirmed that there have been no incidences of the particular fault developing in cars not operated by the police.

Now read our guide to buying an ex-police car or check out the world's best and worst police cars...

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