Car Models Suffer Alarming Number of FiresJuly 13, 2018
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is being urged to investigate complaints concerning spontaneous car fires. The consumer watchdog group, Center for Auto Safety (CAS), recently filed a petition for a defect investigation with the NHTSA, stating that there has been an unusual amount of consumer complaints about the Hyundai Sonata sedan and Santa Fe SUV models, as well as the Kia Optima sedan and Sorento SUV models, from 2011 to 2014.
According to the petition, at least six people were injured in car accidents involving the Hyundai and Kia vehicles. It also revealed that there were 120 complaints regarding fires that occurred without a preceding collision and 229 complaints of melted wires, smoke, or burning odors.
One North Carolina man filed a formal complaint stating that he walked back to his 2012 Hyundai Sonata after shopping and found it engulfed in flames. An investigation revealed that a pile of leaves under the car caught fire when an electrical short in the wiring harness traveled through the engine compartment. The fire destroyed the engine wiring harness, front bumper, intake manifold, and plastic fluid containers in the car.
Hyundai and Kia
Hyundai says that the number of reported fires was extremely low, however, it is reviewing the petition and evaluating all its vehicles’ potential safety concerns. Hyundai also stated that it intends to continue working with the NHTSA and that it will take immediate action if additional solutions are required.
Kia released a statement indicating that it intends to continue cooperating with the NHTSA and follow all applicable laws, such as the federal law requiring safety defects to be reported within five days. Kia maintains that it conducts routine evaluations of its vehicles to ensure that they meet or exceed federal safety standards.
Center for Auto Safety
The executive director of CAS notes that although cars that catch fire when not involved in a crash are manufactured occasionally, there were more fire complaints regarding Kia and Hyundai vehicles than those regarding similar vehicles manufactured around the same time. He says that this pattern is indicative of a systemic issue that should be investigated by the NHTSA, so that a remedy can be provided as soon as possible.
According to the CAS petition, the Kia and Hyundai models were produced at the same plant. Although Hyundai and Kia are separate brands, they are both owned by the same parent company and therefore, the cars often share parts and have similar design and engineering.
The NHTSA is responsible for enforcing vehicle performance standards to reduce fatalities, injuries, and economic losses from motor vehicle crashes. The agency stated that it would review the petition and take any necessary action. According to the CAS, the NHTSA is required to respond within 120 days.
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