Combustible Kias? Owners report vehicles going up in flames

“In May, we started noticing reports of a significant number of Kias and Hyundais catching on fire in what we call a non-collision fire,” said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, an independent consumer watchdog.

“We started getting reports of this on Sonatas and Santa Fes and Sorentos and Optimas and we said there’s a pattern here, something serious is going on,” Levine said.

“We are receiving almost one report every day between when we asked them to look into this and Oct. 12,” Levine said.

In 2017, both Kia and Hyundai issued engine recalls for about 1.2 million vehicles for what they called “manufacturing debris” that “restricted oil flow.” The 2017 recall followed a 2015 recall by Hyundai for engine debris; that recall covered almost 500,000 cars.

But even after the recalls, Levine and the CAS still have doubts.

“This is what we’re concerned about: They open an investigation into engine defects and there was some debris that was floating around in these engines that was causing engines to fail,” Levine said. “That’s obviously bad. However it wasn’t about fire. And so both Kia and Hyundai and NHTSA took to a certain extent pointed to this previous investigation saying ‘Hey we really looked at this, it’s engine debris.’ That’s the problem here. Well if it is, we’d like to see the recall expand from a million vehicles to 3 million vehicles. If it’s not, which we don’t think it actually is, we need a separate investigation and a separate recall.”

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