BMW chief executive officer Harald Krueger and board chairman Norbert Reithofer have admitted the Munich-based company made a mistake in the development of exhaust clearing systems for diesel vehicles.
Speaking during BMW's annual general meeting on Thursday, Krueger said the firm "made a mistake some years ago", which resulted in the accidental installation of inappropriate motor software in 11,700 BMW vehicles, Xinhua news agency reported.
The Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) subsequently ordered a recall of affected BMW diesel cars affected in 2018.
Reithofer emphasized, however, that it was a "manual, human mistake" which had not led to a false depiction of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission levels.
"It had nothing to do with a purposeful manipulation of motor use and exhaust clearing systems," he told investors.
BMW is currently awaiting permission from regulatory authorities to correct the software flaw.
Krueger criticized the behavior of a few car makers which were found guilty of purposeful emission cheating practices and had damaged the reputation of the German automotive industry as a whole.
While BMW offered customers software upgrades for diesel vehicles with the motor type "Euro 5" from 2011 onwards, the company does not believe that more costly hardware upgrades demanded in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal are a technically sensible solution.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently sided with local car makers on the subject of hardware upgrades, arguing that time and financial resources would be better spent on the development of the mobility technologies of the future.
Krueger said BMW was already the leading producer of electric vehicles in Europe and planned to sell 140,000 battery-powered and hybrid models in the course of 2018. Additionally, BMW will release an electric car for its British Mini brand in 2019 and an electric BMW "X3" by 2020.
The CEO urged Europe to assume a pioneering role in e-mobility to prevent it being left behind in the production of new technologies by competitors in the United States and China.
BMW hopes to lead by example in structural reforms of the German automotive industry and will present an "iNext vision vehicle" in the course of the year. Krueger said the iNext combined "all key technologies of future mobility" as a fully electric and partially self-driving car with high safety standards.
The iNext is scheduled to become available for sale to customers in 2021.