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.
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.
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