Group demands a Hyundai-Kia recall
Fires prompt a call for 2.9 million cars and SUVs to be inspected.
A nonprofit auto safety group is demanding that Hyundai and Kia recall 2.9 million cars and SUVs in the U.S. because of consumer complaints that they can catch fire.
The Center for Auto Safety said Friday that there have been more than 220 complaints to the U.S. government since 2010 about fires and an additional 200 complaints about melted wires as well as smoke and burning odors.
The complaints involve the 2011 through 2014 Kia Sorento and Optima and the Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe. Also included is the 2010 through 2015 Kia Soul.
The fires are being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as part of a 2017 probe into Hyundai and Kia engine failures.
“The volume of fires here make it appear that Hyundai and Kia are content to sit back and allow consumers and insurers to bear the brunt of poorly designed, manufactured and repaired vehicles,” said Jason Levine, the center’s executive director. The fire reports have come in from across the country, including a death in Ohio in April 2017, he said.
Hyundai says it monitors safety concerns and acts quickly to recall defective vehicles.
“We have a robust system in place for monitoring and investigating reported vehicle fires that includes investigation and reporting to NHTSA as required. Vehicle fires can result from a variety of reasons,” a company statement said.
Kia said it is using company and third-party fire investigators to determine what caused the fires so it can address them.
“A vehicle fire may be the result of any number of complex factors, such as a manufacturing issue, inadequate maintenance, the installation of aftermarket parts, an improper repair, arson, or some other non-vehicle source, and must be carefully evaluated by a qualified and trained investigator or technician,” the company said.
The Center for Auto Safety filed a petition asking NHTSA to investigate the fires in June. The agency said Friday that it is still evaluating the petition and it has sent information requests to Hyundai, Kia and other automakers.
Levine said the center does not know what’s causing the fires.
In May 2017, the government began investigating whether the automakers moved quickly enough to recall more than 1.6 million vehicles because of engines stalling.
NHTSA is looking into three recalls by the related Korean brands, and it’s also investigating whether the automakers followed safety reporting requirements.
Hyundai recalled about 470,000 vehicles in 2015 because manufacturing debris could have restricted oil flow to connecting rod bearings. That can cause bearings in four-cylinder engines to wear and fail. The repair is an expensive engine block replacement. Last year, the automakers issued two more recalls covering 1.2 million additional vehicles with the same engine problem.