Certain Kias and Hyundais from model years 2011 through 2014 are vulnerable to spontaneous fires. Vehicles affected include the Kia Sorento SUV and Kia Optima sedan, as well as the Hyundai Santa Fe SUV and Hyundai Sonata sedan. While the fires have not been associated with any crashes, it’s estimated that six persons have suffered injuries from the fires.
Petition Submitted to NHTSA
The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) has petitioned Deputy Administrator Heidi King of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) because of the fires. The petition, submitted June 11, 2018, noted that the NHTSA has on file 120 complaints of fires where no crash occurred, as well as 229 filed complaints that mention melted wires, smoke, and odors indicating something was burning. When the number of Hyundai and Kia reports was compared with other competing makes and models, the CAS discovered only 22 reports on file that mentioned fires without collisions for all other competing vehicles.
The Hyundai Sonata had the most complaints at 47, with 10 for the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Sixty-three fires were reported to the NHTSA for the two Kia models.
The CAS petition mentioned several fires, including the following ones:
- 2013 Kia Sorento: After a number of electrical failures that remained undiagnosed following numerous examinations by a technician, the driver’s seat caught fire in such a way that the driver’s side door could not be opened.
- 2012 Hyundai Sonata: While the car’s owner was shopping, the vehicle spontaneously caught fire in a public garage. An investigator concluded that a short in the electrical system melted wires and tubing, which dripped onto leaves under the car, igniting them.
- 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe: After the vehicle had been driven approximately 10 miles and garaged, a fire started once an hour had passed. The ignition had been turned off and there was no key in it. The home and garage experienced significant damage. The fire’s cause, according to the fire department’s investigation, was “not external” to the Kia.
All of the vehicles that have NHTSA non-crash fire reports on file were manufactured either at a plant in West Point, Georgia, or in Montgomery, Alabama. Kia Motors is partially owned by Hyundai Motor Company.
Any petition submitted to the NHTSA that requests investigation into a vehicular defect allows the agency to take 120 days to respond. As of July 1st, 2018, no official recall had been announced.
Yet Another Recall for Hyundai and Kia
The two automakers announced another recall in May of 2018, this time for hybrid vehicles. Together, Hyundai and Kia are calling back more than 37,000 vehicles because of an oil leak that could result in a fire. Leaking oil might drip onto other parts of the engine, causing an electrical short and possibly a fire. The defect’s discovery came about because vehicles that were brought in for servicing had their HEV warning lights illuminated. While no fires or crashes due to the defect have occurred, according to Consumer Reports, the risk of trouble exists. Affected vehicles include the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq and the 2017 Kia Niro.
If you are concerned, you can check the recall status of your Kia or Hyundai (or any other vehicle) on the NHTSA’s recall web site if you have its vehicle identification number (VIN).
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