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The Center for Auto Safety, a non-profit consumer advocacy organization, has petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate Kia and Hyundai vehicles because of a potential fire hazard.

The group sent the petition on June 11, 2018, noting that at least 120 owners have reported that their vehicles caught fire for seemingly no reason. There have been an additional 200 reports of melted wires in the engine bay, smoke, and burning odors.

2013 Kia Sorento Fires
Source: Kelley Blue Book

Center for Auto Safety Raises the Alarm About Kia and Hyundai Fires

The vehicles in question include the 2011-2014 model:

  • Kia Sorento
  • Kia Optima
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Hyundai Santa Fe

All but the Sonata were manufactured in the same facility—the Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia in West Point, Georgia. The Hyundai Sonata was manufactured in Montgomery, Alabama. Complaints about these vehicles, according to the Center, “reveal a frighteningly large number of these vehicles manufactured at the same time catching fire.” Most of the complaints say the fires seemed to start with smoke and/or flames emanating from the engine bay, and then the car is engulfed.

The Center acknowledges that occasionally such issues can happen with any vehicle, but when compared to similar vehicles, “there is enough of a statistical disparity to suggest a systemic issue that NHTSA must investigate and seek a repair remedy as soon as possible.”

As of June 7, 2018, for example, when comparing these vehicles to others, the Center found 22 cases of non-collision fires in competitor vehicles, as opposed to 120 for Kia and Hyundai models. The fires all involving model years 2011-2014, and broke down as follows:

  • 33 fires for Optima
  • 30 fires for Sorento
  • 10 fires for Santa Fe Sport
  • 47 fires for Sonata

What’s Causing These Fires to Occur?

The Center notes that it is important to find out if these fires are caused by a potential flaw in the manufacturing process, or if supplier error may be to blame. After reviewing the complaints, the Center suggested it may be faulty electrical components or faulty housing causing the problem. In some complaints, leaking engine fluids could have either added to the issue or caused it separately.

Either way, the Center has urged the NHTSA to find out, and if the results of the investigation show that the vehicles contain a defect that relates to motor safety, that the NHTSA will likely issue a recall for these vehicles.

Some plaintiffs have already filed complaints in court regarding these fires. In March 2018, one plaintiff claimed that a 2013 Kia Sorento caught fire while parked in the garage. Expert testimony in the ongoing case noted that the fire started with a manufacturing defect affecting the front wiring harness, which allegedly wasn’t properly secured to the vehicle.

The Center added that “it is reasonable to conclude that more Kias and Hyundais will catch on fire, leading to fatalities and serious injuries—if they have not done so already.” They urged the NHTSA to act quickly.

2 Comments

  1. Gravatar for George King

    Last Friday morning, July 27, 2018, we experienced a house fire in the attached garage of our house in Round Rock, Texas. My son Mark and his roommate were home when the fire started at approximate 7:45AM. They both escaped the burning house without injury. Mark's 2011 KIA Sorento had been parked in the garage since about 7:30 PM the evening before.

    Investigators from Mark's car insurance company and our home owner insurance company agree that the fire appears to have originated with the car. How can we go about holding KIA responsible for the fire and all the damage it caused to our house and the contents?

    The Round Rock fire department did an excellent job of keeping the flames confined to the garage and adjacent laundry room but there is extensive smoke and water damage throughout the entire house.

    Any advice you can provide is greatly appreciated.

    1. Eric T. Chaffin

      George, so sorry to hear about the damage to your home, and am glad to hear your family was not injured. You should obtain the report from the fire investigators and preserve the vehicle, and direct both to Kia (you likely can get the contact information for customer service from your local dealer) and put in a claim to them for your damages. Your homeowner's insurance company will also likely help you facilitate a claim. If you do not have success with this, you likely will want to contact a local attorney in your area who may be able to assist with the property damage claim. Good luck and hope you are able to get the company to cover the damage to your home.

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