Shattered Tailgate

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Nov 20, 2014
I apologize that I haven't posted here much since my initial honeymoon phase with the i3 last November, but life had caught up with me and luckily the i3 has fit in nicely there. Some of you on the i3 Facebook group may have seen, that I recently had an issue with the rear tailgate where the glass shattered completely when I simply closed the trunk. I have recapped the damage and service history below for those who want more detail. Has anyone experienced similar problems with their i3? It sounds like this has happened to a few others from identifiable accidents but not from normal use.

This also brings up the question of "normal use." My car is admittedly parked on the street in Brooklyn 90% of the time and there was no damage to my bumper or anywhere else on the car to suggest that someone hit it while parked. But even if it was tapped by another driver lacking parking-assist, this car that is marketed as the "Mega City Vehicle" should be able to handle the bumps and scrapes that come with being in a Mega City without the fear of incurring $3000 in damage from what would be a scrape or dent on any other car.

BMW is uninterested in paying for the damage, but I did nothing out of the ordinary to cause this damage. If this was the result of a parking accident, I'd be happy to run it through insurance, since that's what insurance is for "the unexpected things in life." But this piece of my car literally fell apart in my hands after closing the trunk. So my intent is two fold, I'd like to be compensated for the cost of repairs but I'd also like this case to be on the record that maybe a vulnerable glass panel on the back isnt the best design choice. Particularly in a car where no expense was spared to save weight.

I post this as both a call for suggestions but also a general warning to other i3 owners.


Brought our i3 in for routine maintenance and inspection as indicated on the dash console. Received the car back the same day all cleaned up and parked the car in front of our apartment.

First time taking the car out since, drove the car about 12 miles to pick up my mother-in-law to drive her to the airport. Loaded her single piece of overhead-compartment-sized luggage into the trunk and closed it. The entire piece of glass just under the rear windshield shattered starting from in front of the two taillights. Prior to this, I honestly didnt even realize there was a sheet of glass here, I hadnt ever thought to look at it that closely and just assumed it was another plastic body panel. There were no signs of damage to the car otherwise, if we had been bumped while parked there was no evidence of it on the bumper. And the shatter had no clear origin point, starting on opposite sides of the car. Also, apparently that piece of glass keeps the tail-lights in place, so we taped up the rear and brought it in to BMW the next day.

Brought the car in to BMW of Manhattan for repairs. Their i specialist was surprised at the damage without a clear cause and said he's seen this in cases where an i3 was towed backward sending road debris into the tailgate, but not from normal use.

Received word from BMW of Manhattan that the total cost of repair would be a bit more that $3000 and that it's not covered under warranty since it's an external body panel. This seems fair enough since dealerships are independently owned and generally speaking exterior damage is caused by accidents or normal wear & tear.

Also spoke to BMW of North America and their i Genius team and explained the situation. They agreed the situation was surprising and said they'd get back in 1-3 business days.

Hadnt had time to reach out to BMW of NA until now, ironically because I was in post-production on a commercial for the BMW M135i for the Chinese market. I was told that my case was closed, but no one had reached out to me to mention that fact. They re-opened the case and I should receive an email by the end of the day from the new case manager. No email received.

I followed up to see if anyone was on the case and they said they'd get back to me in 1-3 business days. I asked if they can expedite that since they failed to contact me in the first place.

Received word from the BMW i Concierge team that they could not cover the damage but could offer a $250 gift card for the inconvenience. Which is less than 1/10th the cost of the damage.

Decided to go through insurance as a no-fault liability claim because I've already gone almost 2 weeks without a car at this point. I counter offered with the BMW i Concierge team that they should cover the $500 deductible as a compromise between the full price of the repairs and their $250 gift card offer.

Waiting to hear back on this while repairs are made...




Hopefully, someone will design and produce an abs or lexan replacement part.

What is the actual part cost?
Blue20 said:
Would security window film help to prevent this type of damage? or reduce the chance of it?
Not if the cause of the breakage is a defect in the tempering which seems likely in some of the reported cases of "spontaneous" breakage. But security window film or even a vinyl wrap might provide a bit of protection from deep scratching which could cause tempered glass to break.

The use of tempered glass for this panel was a really poor choice not only because of its fragility under certain circumstances but also because it's heavier than a comparable panel made of the same thermoplastic as the exterior panels of the car.
Thanks everyone for the replies and insight! I just got my i3 back and wanted to follow up with my experience. So the tailgate was repaired at a total cost of $2906.22, broken down to $1740 labor and $929.31 in parts and tax on top of that. BMW of North America's official position is that the tailgate is not covered under warranty, but I was able to get them to agree to cover my $500 deductible for the repair as there was no discernible cause of the breakage. Your milage may vary, but I'm happy with how this was resolved, though it required more than a few phone calls to make it happen.

I'll say that everyone I spoke to at BMW of Manhattan and BMW of NA were nothing but polite and professional, albiet often the bearers of bad news along the way. Also, everyone I spoke to agreed that it seems like a bad idea to have a piece of glass in such a vulnerable place for both damage and weight reasons. Hopefully this is something BMW will take into consideration in future design updates!
brooklynI3 said:
Also, everyone I spoke to agreed that it seems like a bad idea to have a piece of glass in such a vulnerable place for both damage and weight reasons. Hopefully this is something BMW will take into consideration in future design updates!
If this really is a terrible idea, then there will be a lot more owners needing this rear glass replaced. It is possible that BMW may have to redesign, and extend the warranty for current owners, and reimburse prior repair costs. I don't expect it to be that bad, but it could have the potential to be such an issue.
brooklynI3 said:
BMW of North America's official position is that the tailgate is not covered under warranty, but I was able to get them to agree to cover my $500 deductible for the repair as there was no discernible cause of the breakage.
Because there was no discernible cause for the breakage, BMW should have covered its repair under warranty instead of forcing you to file a claim against your insurance. This was almost certainly the spontaneous breakage that can occur with defective tempered glass. When tempered glass is damaged (e.g., by contact with something else that scratches it), it usually shatters immediately, not hours later. If BMW continues forcing i3 owners to file claims against our insurance for spontaneous breakage of the tailgate glass, all of our insurance rates will increase. Disgusting, BMW!
For that price, I think I could hand it over to a friend who does carbon fibre mouldings and get a lighter, stronger, better panel to replace the glass. I guess the biggest challenge would be to have a transparent section for the tail lights.
It really seems like a place to put lexan instead of glass. Maybe it felt too cheap, though?
Hi Brooklyn,

I just had a similar experience with my i3. The glass shattered following a sound of big explosion. I took it to the BMW dealer. At first they accepted it is a warranty issue. After few days they called in saying no it is definitely a collision and started making up stories.

The thing is with mine, the whole thing exploded. It was a big noise....the left signal was disconnected from the wire and were 2 meters away on the asphalt. The left signal was still attached to the wire and hit the top of the bumper.

I even contacted BMW Germany. All tried to deny that there is an error with the car.

I have seen you and another person reporting the same story. I can see the size of shattered glasses of yours is similar to mine. I want to see how many more have faced it. And perhaps do somehting about it.

Insurance is not paying for my damage and BMW also refuses to pay. So I have to pay for it myself. The worst part is I feel unsafe driving this thing.
Tempered glass is quite strong, and actually somewhat flexible. But, if it is scratched deep enough, while it may not shatter immediately, give it a little temperature change or other stress, and it can explode. SO, it is quite possible someone damaged your rear panel, and it didn't shatter until you moved it, adding the additional stress to it. Now, whether that was a good design decision or not is another story altogether.
nestiego said:
Insurance is not paying for my damage and BMW also refuses to pay. So I have to pay for it myself. The worst part is I feel unsafe driving this thing.

Why is insurance not paying for it? What do they say?
I realize that this is an old thread, but I'll add my experience to the list. I leased a 2017 i3 last week. Yesterday as I was driving home, I noticed a rattling sound from the rear compartment. The rear window glass had shattered and was falling out in small bits (I have to admit that it might have shattered in the parking lot, and I didn't notice).

I've just begun the process of getting the glass replaced. I called Safelite; they will replace the glass for $627. Next I called BMW. Their estimate for the job was $2310, which included replacing the tailgate (which wasn't damaged) . When I asked why, the technician said that broken glass could fall into the tailgate and cause electrical problems. Interestingly enough, the technician said he had replaced the rear glass on another i3 last week. I just insured the car two days ago; I opted for $500 deductible collision (silly me, always looking to save a couple of bucks). Like another poster, I'll be lowering it to $100.

Is there any way to find out if this is a manufacturing flaw? It's probably to early to tell if it affects the 2017. Any suggestions on who to contact at BMW, to see if it might be covered? If it's not, at least I'm encouraged by the poster who said that BMW reimbursed him for his deductible.

If there's any news, I'll update the thread.
I just found this thread and I'll add my experience as well. My 2014 i3 was parked at work and when I came out in the evening (it was dark) I heard glass falling to the ground when I shut the passenger side door. When I looked at the back of the car, I noticed all the glass on the back was shattered and there were holes in it at both tail lights. I assumed that someone had hit my car while it was parked during the day. And I called my insurance company the next day and filed a claim. The car is now in the body shop being repaired. As others have reported, the entire hatch has to be be replaced. The repair estimate is $1,853. Unfortunately, I have a $1,000 deductible, so I am out of pocket a grand. I was surprised to learn that the back of the car had a large sheet of curved glass. It seems like a really bad design choice. When I Googled this today I found this post. Now I am thinking that my car was not hit while it was parked. Based on what I'm reading here, I feel that is is a design defect. Has anyone had success getting BMW to pay for their deductible? My i3 is leased with a turn in date this summer. I've loved my BEV i3 up until now. This is a pretty serious issue that would likely prevent me from getting another one until it is addressed.
Regardless of the root cause, USA folks need to submit a defect report to the NHTSA. If enough show up, they can order an investigation. That doesn't means fixing the past but getting BMW to look at doing the right thing in the future.

Bob Wilson