Federal officials are continuing their investigation of spontaneous fires in certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles following numerous complaints from consumers. According to one non-profit consumer safety organization, the Center for Auto safety, there have been hundreds Hyundai and Kia vehicles which have unexpectedly caught fire, including some vehicles that ignited as they were being driven. One death has been tied to the vehicle fires.
The following outlines the latest developments over Kia and Hyundai vehicle fires:
- Vehicles that may be affected by the problem include 2011 – 2014 Hyundai Santa Fes / Sonatas and Kia Sorentos / Optimas, and 2010 – 2015 Kia Souls.
- The Center for Auto Safety has stated that over 250 Kia and Hyundai vehicles have caught fire unexpectedly Consumers have reported related problems, including melted wires in vehicle engines, smoke and burning smells. The group also noted that during a four-month period, they found reports of sudden vehicle fires at a rate of about one each day.
- The non-profit is calling for federal regulators to address process barriers which have slowed investigations into what they call a “serious and extremely dangerous problem.”
- Advocates are pushing for a massive 3-million vehicle recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has, so far, not required such a sweeping recall. Kia and Hyundai have attributed the fires to engine debris, and have issued a limited recall to repair this issue. However, the Center for Auto Safety reports that some vehicle fires have occurred even after cars have completed the recall repairs.
One driver reported that the vehicle’s engine warning light began to flash intermittently when they were traveling at 60 mph in their 2011 Sonata. The driver then heard a clicking sound and noticed black smoke pouring into the vehicle, prompting them to pull over to escape the smoke. Shortly after the driver exited the vehicle, a fire broke out and engulfed the car. Similar reports have been made about affected Santa Fes, Sorentos, Optimas and Souls.
The Suspected Problem & Regulatory Failures
Consumer safety groups believe the fires may stem from product defects. Kia and Hyunday are affiliated automakers and both produce models at plants in the US. There are concerns about manufacturing issues at plants in Georgia and Alabama. nearly half of vehicles with reported fire-related problems were made at the Georgia facility, while roughly 80% of engines involved were manufactured at the Alabama plant.
The Center for Auto Safety is also pointing to the failures of regulators to fully investigate and address the issue. As of July 2018 NHTSA it had received over 400 complains of fires involving Hyundai and Kia vehicles and has investigations already underway However, incidents not resulting in collisions, such as incidents involving sudden fires while vehicles are being driven, have not prompted a new investigation.
As the consumer watchdog notes, the federal process for monitoring recalls and investigations is inadequate, and lacks controls that ensure automakers report complaints to regulators and remedy defects in a timely matter. A mandatory recall and immediate action from NHTSA and federal officials, they say, will be critical to identifying the problem and protecting public safety before injuries and deaths begin to add up.
Product Liability Lawsuits: Your Rights as a Victim
Issues like these are unfortunately not uncommon. While automakers routinely recall vehicles for various problems, they often do so only after their failures have harmed consumers. Though federal officials play an important role in holding auto manufacturers accountable, consumers who step forward to report their stories are often the most critical part behind real action.
If you or anyone you know owns a Kia or Hyundai vehicle that may be affected by the potential safety issue, we encourage you to contact a local dealer for more information about recalls and potential remedies. Our legal team at Eisenberg Cutt Kendell & Olson is also available to assist vehicle owners who wish to learn more about their rights following preventable car accidents, injuries, and losses that may be linked to defective products and the failures of automakers.
Eisenberg Cutt Kendell & Olson is a Salt Lake City-based personal injury law firm that has extensive experience in the area of product liability. Over the years, we have cultivated a proven record for holding major corporations across the country accountable for harms and damages caused by defective products, including auto defects that cause or contribute to property damage, auto accidents, injuries, and deaths that could and should have been prevented.
Call (801) 901-3470 or contact us online to discuss a potential case.