US NHTSA Opens Hyundai and Kia Vehicle Fires Probe

The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this week, opened new cases to investigate Hyundai and Kia vehicle models after thousands of fires resulting in more than 100 injuries, and one death, were reported.

According to the federal auto safety regulator announced, on Monday, it had launched this investigation into nearly 3 million vehicles in response to a new petition from the Center for Auto Safety. The petition from this advocacy group initiated probes over many years of recalls from both companies in related to potential fire risks.  

The models included in the NHTSA Office of Defect Investigations probe include the 2011-2014 Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe, the 2011-2014 Kia Sorento and Optima, and the 2011-2015 Kia Soul.  These are of utmost concern since most of the engine fires reported have been among Hyundai’s 2.4-L and 2.0-L “Theta II” four-cylinder engines.

The NHTSA says the pair of South Korea-based carmakers say that, collectively, 3,125 fires not related to collisions have been reported. Only one fatality, the agency says, has been recorded. 

Accordingly, the NHTSA will begin this investigation to “assess the scope, frequency, and potential safety-related consequences of alleged defects [relating to] non-collision” fires. Furthermore, Center for Auto Safety executive director Jason Levine comments, “It is long past time for the full power of the federal government to be brought to bear to answer why so many thousands of Kia and Hyundai vehicles have been involved in non-crash fires.” 

You may be aware that these two companies have been issuing recalls since 2015, mostly on reports engine failures and, of course, fires. As a matter of fact, the companies recalled more than 500,000 vehicles as recently as February, contributing to a total vehicle recall in excess of 2.3 million.  Actually, the NHTSA said this earlier recall of vehicle models covered by this investigation were related to engine fires but this new probe “is not limited to engine components and may cover additional vehicle systems or components as well.”

Finally, it should be noted that both Kia and Hyundai have admitted they are cooperating with the federal investigation; the NHTSA reports they have been transparent throughout the course of the probe.