Federal Regulators to Investigate Nearly 3 Million Hyundai and Kia Vehicles for Fire Hazard
Hyundai and Kia have announced that they are moving forward with a vehicle defect recall of about 168,000 vehicles to repair a fuel pipe problem that could cause engine fires. According to an Associated Press news report, the problem stems from improper or inadequate repairs during prior recalls for engine failures. The Korean automakers have been dealing with complaints relating spontaneously occurring fires and engine failures across the United States.
Recall Comes During Shutdown
The companies are also under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is largely closed now due to the government shutdown.
In addition to the recall, each automaker has said it will perform a “product improvement campaign” covering about 3.7 million vehicles to install software that will alert drivers about possible engine failures and send the cars into a reduced-speed mode if problems are detected. NHTSA employees who perform safety investigations are not at work.
Under normal conditions, the agency would review the recalls to make sure they are adequate and post details for public knowledge on its website. The agency would also monitor notices to customers and make sure they could check to see if their vehicles are included in the recall. But, none of that is likely to happen now because of the shutdown.
Is This Recall Enough?
Auto safety advocates are concerned that Kia and Hyundai are not doing enough with this recall and so-called product improvement campaign. They believe that the 3.7 million vehicles that are part of the campaign should really be recalled so consumers can get this serious safety issue fixed. In 2015, the companies started recalling 1.7 million vehicles because debris could restrict oil flow to connecting rod bearings.
This problem also had the potential to cause fires. Now the companies are acknowledging that the engine replacements may not have been adequate and not properly carried out by dealers. The fuel injector pipe recall covers some 2011 through 2014 Kia Optima cars, 2012 through 2014 Sorrento SUVs, and 2011 through 2013 Sportage SUVs, all with 2-liter and 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines. Also covered are many 2011 to 2014 Hyundai Sonata cars and 2013 and 2014 Santa Fe Sport SUVs.
Safety advocates say Kia limited the latest recall to a relatively small number of vehicles and has not provided adequate explanation raising more questions than answers. They also say some consumers have complained about fires in vehicles that are not even included in these recalls. As auto defect lawyers, we are also extremely concerned about the lack of a proper recall of these Kia and Hyundai vehicles. There is no question that the government shutdown is already having its impact on consumer safety issues. It remains to be seen if the agency will recall its furloughed employees to handle these critical challenges.