Group de­mands a Hyundai-Kia re­call

Fires prompt a call for 2.9 mil­lion cars and SUVs to be in­spected.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT -

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.

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