Following more than 100 reports of non-accident related car fires, a consumer advocacy group is calling for federal regulators to investigate the safety of more than 2 million Kia and Hyundai vehicles, indicating that there may be a risk of wires in the engine bay overheating or melting.
The Center for Auto Safety petitioned to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on June 11, urging the agency to initiate a safety defect investigation into the number of Kia and Hyundai fires, as well as more than 200 reports of problems involving wires in the engine bay.
The group warns that the vehicles may contain a dangerous defect that increase the risk of overheating and fires, putting owners, occupants and those nearby at risk.
The petition cites 120 owner reports that have indicated the vehicles caught on fire spontaneously. According to the reports, the fires emanated from the vehicle’s engine department, before engulfing the rest of the vehicle in flames. An additional 229 separate complaints have indicated the vehicles experienced melted wires in the engine bay, smoke, and burning odors.
The vehicles potentially impacted by the overheating and fire risks are model year 2011 through 2014 Kia Optima, Sorento, and Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe vehicles that were manufactured and distributed for sale throughout the United States.
According to the petition, 33 fires have occurred in 2011 through 2014 Optima vehicles, 30 fires in 2011 through 2014 Sorento vehicles, 10 fires in 2011 through 2014 Sante Fe vehicles, and 47 reported fires from 2011 through 2014 Sonata vehicles.
In one report, the owner of a 2011 Kia Sante Fe idrove the vehicle for about 10 miles before parking inside of an attached garage without any issue present. After approximately an hour of the vehicle being parked, with the key removed from the ignition, it went up in flames. The incident caused significant damage to the garage and attached home. Fortunately, no one was injured.
An incident involving a 2013 Kia Sorento involved a customer who began noticing a tar smell as they were driving. Upon taking the vehicle to their local dealer, the owner was informed there was nothing wrong and she was sent on her way. Shortly after, the driver seat began to jam and began getting hot, causing the driver side door to jam. No fire occurred and the owner was removed from the vehicle by firefighters and first responders.
The petition calls for all of the vehicles manufactured at the Kia Motors Manufacturing facility in West Point, Georgia and Montgomery, Alabama to be investigated to recognize potential flaws in the manufacturing process and to investigate potential defective parts received from suppliers.
The Center for Auto Safety reports there are an anticipated 2.2 million vehicles that could be impacted by a future recall. The organization is urging customers to be cautious of parking the vehicles inside of structures and to never leave children or occupants in the vehicles.