A mounting number of complaints about fires breaking out in certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles and SUVs has prompted the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety to demand the Korean carmakers recall nearly 3 million vehicles.
In an Oct. 12 announcement, CAS said it and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have received more than 220 consumer complaints of non-collision fires in Hyundai and Kia vehicles.
The CAS says that Hyundai and Kia to need to recall 2.9 million defective vehicles to fix the fire hazards, including the 2011-2014 Kia Sorento, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata, and Hyundai Santa Fe, and 2010-2015 Kia Soul vehicles.
NHTSA is currently investigating the complaints of fires in some of these vehicles as part of a broader investigation of Hyundai and Kia engine failures, but it has not pushed the automakers for a recall to address the alleged fire hazards.
Federal regulators are also trying to determine whether Hyundai and Kia acted quickly enough in notifying NHTSA about an engine stalling problem in 1.6 million 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,” said Jason Levine, CAS executive director. “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.”
In addition to fires breaking out, often in the vehicle’s undercarriage, the government has received reports of melted wires, smoke, and burning odors in the vehicles.
According to the Associated Press, Kia said the company and third-party investigators are looking into the alleged fire problems, but automotive manufacturers often try to pin blame on consumers for serious safety defects.
Wile Kia acknowledged that fires could be the result of a “manufacturing issue,” the carmaker told the AP that vehicle fires may also be the result of “inadequate maintenance, the installation of aftermarket parts, an improper repair, arson, or some other non-vehicle source.”
Mr. Levine told the AP that “the volume of fires here make it appear that Hyundai and Kia are content to sit back and allow consumers and insurers to bear the brunt of poorly designed, manufactured and repaired vehicles,” adding that a recall is urgent because complaints keep trickling in from across the country, including one involving a death in Ohio.