An investigative report suggests that many new models of Kia and Hyundai vehicles are still at risk of bursting into flames, despite massive recalls and hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements paid to federal regulators over the last couple years.
The concerns over the vehicle fires first arose after the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer vehicle safety watchdog, presented more than 3,000 customer reports of Hyundai and Kia engine fires, along with a petition for the NHTSA to look into what was believed to be faulty oil pans, catalytic converters, fuel leaks, oil leaks, and other problems that increased the risk of a vehicle fire.
This has resulted in a recall of more than 600,000 Kia and Hyundai vehicles, and $210 million in settlements paid by the manufacturers to prevent criminal and civil charges from being filed by the federal government.
However, even after the recalls and fines, an investigative report by WSB-TV in Atlanta suggests the Kia and Hyundai car fires are still occurring. In fact, the station’s own investigation suggests that the vehicles have been subject to more than 40 different recalls affecting six million vehicles total, all due to engine fire risks.
The latest such recall was issued on April 13 and impacted 147,249 Kia Soul and Selto vehicles from the 2020 and 2021 model years.
In response to the media report, Kia sent a letter to the station acknowledging ongoing recalls and indicating owners of certain Kia Sportage and Cadenza models will be notified of yet another recall beginning April 30. The details of that upcoming Kia recall were announced last month.
Both Kia and Hyundai have claimed safety as a priority in statements made in response to the investigation, which included interviews with Kia owners whose vehicles had burst into flame. However, federal regulators and government prosecutors felt those safety standards were severely lacking.
According to a consent order announced in November 2020, Hyundai was hit with a total civil penalty of $140 million, including an upfront payment of $54 million and an obligation to expend an additional $40 million on specified safety performance measures. An additional $46 million deferred penalty may become payable if specified conditions are not satisfied.
Under Kia’s consent order, the company will be forced to pay a total civil penalty of $70 million, which includes an upfront payment of $27 million, an obligation to expend an additional $16 million on specified safety performance measures, and an additional $27 million deferred penalty that may become payable if specified conditions are not satisfied.
In addition to monetary penalties, Kia announced it will create a new U.S. safety office, and Hyundai will be building a U.S. test facility specifically for safety investigations. Both companies will be required to develop sophisticated data analytics programs to better detect safety-related concerns and must retain an independent third-party auditor to evaluate the protocols.
The third-party auditor will be required to report directly to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) after conducting periodic reviews of the newly implemented safety practices for three years.
More than 3,100 fires, 103 injuries and one death were linked to the engine compartment fires, which were determined to be caused by brake fluid leaking inside of the hydraulic control unit for the anti-lock brakes.