The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA) has opened up a new investigation this week into fires in five Hyundai and Kia vehicle models following reports of thousands of vehicle fires that resulted in more than 100 injuries and at least one death. According to an NPR news report, NHTSA announced that it has launched the two investigations encompassing nearly 3 million vehicles in response to a petition filed by the Center for Auto Safety, which is a consumer advocacy group.
What Vehicles Are Involved?
The cars that have been included in the scope of the new investigations include Hyundai’s 2011-2014 Sonata and Santa Fe, Kia’s 2011-2014 Optima and Sorento and Kia’s 2012-2015 Soul. So far, the South Korea-based automakers have received about 3,125 reports of fires that were not triggered by a crash, NHTSA reports. The agency’s files show one documented death linked to this auto defect.
Federal safety regulators say the probe will evaluate the scope, frequency and potential safety-related consequences of the alleged defects relating to the fires. Initially, the center asked the agency to examine the Optima, Sorento, Sonata and Santa Fe vehicles in June 2018 and then added the Soul to the list of problematic vehicles in the next month. The group has also asked Congress to investigate these fires.
Kia Fire in Southern California
Barely a day after NHTSA announced this investigation, Los Angeles resident Jessica Hernandez said her 2015 Kia Forte erupted in flames as she, her mother, 16-year-old son, and boyfriend were driving from Manhattan Beach to Lynwood. Hernandez said as she was driving on the freeway, she noticed other drivers waving at her.
Her car stalled and then smoke began to pour in through the air conditioning vent. They were all able to get out of the car safely before it fully became engulfed in flames. But the family is clearly shaken and has been left terrified over their experience. However, Hernandez’s Forte is not included in NHTSA’s investigation announced this week.
Time for a Comprehensive Recall
Both Hyundai and Kia have dragged their feet for way too long. We’ve seen too many reports in the media about drivers and their passengers having close calls with these vehicles spontaneously erupting into flames. NHTSA along with the automakers needs to be expeditious in examining all vehicles that have these issues, recall and repairing them. Too many lives hang in the balance here.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of these Hyundai and Kia vehicle fires, please contact an experienced auto defect lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.