A lot of newer-model vehicles have fold-down seats in the rear so it’s easier for vehicle owners to transport larger items or more items if they need to do so. In almost all vehicles when one side of the rear seat is folded down, a passenger can still sit on the side of the vehicle where the seat hasn’t been folded. However, the seatbelt’s design should allow for the rear passenger to buckle up.
Seatbelt Unusable When Seatback is Folded
Well, that hasn’t been the case with 2020 Kia Soul vehicles. According to one vehicle owner, the seatbelt became stuck under the seat and was unusable when one of the seats was folded and the passenger on the other side attempted to buckle up. It is interesting to note that the Kia Soul manual is silent about whether a passenger can sit in the upright portion of the rear seat when one side is folded. It only cautions against allowing a passenger to sit on top of the folded down seatback when the vehicle is in motion.
The manual also notes that the folded-down seatback is not a proper seating area because “no seatbelts are available for use,” which “could result in serious injury or death.” At the very least, this implies that seats that are not folded down should be available for a passenger to use safely with a seatbelt. Also, the manual does not warn passengers against sitting in any part of the rear seat while a part of it is folded down. SUVs such as the Kia Soul are viewed as “utility vehicles,” which means a big selling point is flexibility in terms of cargo/passenger capacity.
There is also no warning about this issue in the manual’s “Features and Functions Guide.” The image shown only illustrates folding down a part of the rear seatback and doesn’t warn or prohibit passengers from sitting in the remaining part of the seat that is upright. The 2021 Kia Soul as well as Hyundai Kona vehicles seem to have a similar construction. Kia sells about 100,000 units of the Soul SUVs every year and Hyundai sells about 50,000 Kona vehicles a year.
Potential Class Action
If you own one of these vehicles, you may be eligible to join a class action. It is important to remember that class actions are means by which consumers can band together and hold a corporation, in this case an automaker, accountable for defective design and potentially a defective auto that could put occupants’ lives in danger. Not being able to use a seatbelt is indeed a grave risk. If you are the owner of a 2020-2021 Kia Soul or Hyundai Kona, please connect with one of our class action lawyers to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.