Do you drive a Kia or a Hyundai from the model years 2011 through 2014? If so, you should be aware that an unusual number of consumer complaints about spontaneous vehicle fires have been reported for the Kia Optima sedan, the Kia Sorento SUV, the Hyundai Sonata sedan, and the Hyundai Santa Fe SUV. These reported fires are not associated with any crashes. However, at least six people have been injured by the fires.
On June 11, 2018, the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) petitioned the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) concerning the fires. The CAS located 120 complaints filed with the NHTSA that reported fires when there was no collision, as well as an additional 229 complaints that referenced smoke, melted wires, and burning odors, all of which could indicate fires. Only 22 non-crash-related fire reports were found in the NHTSA database for all other competing makes and models as opposed to the 120 for the Hyundai and Kia models.
Of the 120 complaints:
- 47 involved the 2011-2014 Hyundai Sonata
- 33 involved the 2011-2014 Kia Optima
- 30 involved the 2011-2014 Kia Sorento
- 10 involved the 2011-2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.
Example Fires from the NHTSA Database
Some of the fires mentioned in the CAS petition include:
- A 2012 Hyundai Sonata that spontaneously burst into flames while the owner was shopping. The investigator believed that an electrical short caused melted wires and tubing to ignite leaves under the car.
- A 2011 Kia Optima that spontaneously caught fire while parked in a garage after having been driven a short distance. An independent investigator concluded that the fire started in the radiator fan assembly. The car was declared a total loss.
- A 2013 Kia Sorento that experienced several electrical failures that a technician was unable to diagnose. During the final failure, the driver’s seat started to burn, which jammed the driver’s side door. Fortunately, no one was injured.
The 2011-2014 Kia Sorentos and Optimas, as well as the Hyundai Santa Fes, were all manufactured at the same plant in West Point, GA. The Hyundai Sonatas for the same years were built in Montgomery, AL. Hyundai Motor Company is a minority owner of Kia Motors.
Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL, has called for a speedy investigation on the part of the NHTSA by writing a letter to the deputy administrator of the NHTSA, Heidi King, about the fires. In the letter, Sen. Nelson commented, “Spontaneous fires are serious safety hazards and should not be taken lightly. We have to find out what is causing these fires and what can be done to prevent them. Owners need to know if their vehicles are safe. As a result, NHTSA must quickly identify and adequately address any serious safety issues.”
Nelson has asked the NHTSA to provide him with all communications regarding the fires by July 3, 2018.
The NHTSA has 120 days to respond to any petition requesting investigation into an automotive defect. The agency has indicated it would “review the petition and take appropriate action if warranted.” As of late June, 2018, no official recall for these vehicles has been initiated.
Remember that you can always check the recall status of any vehicle by entering its vehicle identification number (VIN) into the appropriate field on the NHTSA’s recall web site.