A prominent auto safety group is calling on federal officials to recall nearly 3 million Hyundai and Kia vehicles, following hundreds of reports involving fires and problems that may cause wires to melt and smoke in the engine compartment.
The Center for Auto Safety issued a press release on October 12, calling for a Hyundai and Kia recall after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported one death and at least 220 reported non-collision fires, as well as another 200 complaints involving melted wires that result in smoke and burning odors.
The demand comes only a few months after the non-profit group petitioned the NHTSA to open a defect investigation in June 2018, which cited at least 120 reported non collision vehicles fires at the time.
The NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened an investigation into the matter in August, and has requested documentation from the automakers to determine the source of the defect. ODI’s response to the Centers for Auto Safety’s petition indicated the vehicle fires are believed to be related to two current open queries that involve engine failure issues for certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles.
“Since our call for an investigation into these Kia and Hyundai non-collision fires, we have seen reports of almost one fire every single day across these five models,” Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety, Jason Levine, said in the press release. “The number and severity of these complaints, when people are simply driving their cars on the highway, is frightening. It is long past time for Kia and Hyundai to act. Car fires put everyone on the road in significant danger.”
The investigation involves certain model year 2011 through 2014 Kia Sorento, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe vehicles as well as 2010 through 2015 Kia Soul models.
In one vehicle fire report, the owner of a 2011 Kia Sante Fe drove the vehicle for about 10 miles before parking inside of an attached garage. After about an hour of the vehicle being parked, with the key removed from the ignition, it went up in flames, resulting in significant damage to the garage and attached home.
Another report involved an owner of a 2013 Kia Sorento 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 investigation is still ongoing into the root cause of the Kia and Hyundai fires, however the NHTSA believes it could be related to previous engine failure recalls the Korean manufacturers have issued that have impacted over a million vehicles.
In September 2015, Hyundai recalled nearly half a million vehicles due to the potential for debris to restrict oil flow to connecting rod bearings, requiring an expensive engine block replacement recall campaign. In 2017, both Kia and Hyundai recalled more than 1.2 million vehicles for similar engine block failure issues that caused overheating issues.
The NHTSA is currently investigating whether Hyundai and Kia failed to follow proper safety reporting requirements and if the manufacturers delayed reporting incident reports. If this separate investigation determines the manufactures failed to follow protocol, NHTSA officials could begin to issue fines or seek other legal ramifications.