Defect Investigations

About Defect Investigations

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and its Office of Defect Investigations (ODI) are responsible for investigating potential vehicle safety defects.

The investigation process covers a variety of aspects from an initial collecting and analysis of data to an evaluation, whether a defect presents an unreasonable risk motor vehicle safety or not. This process can be divided into three main phases:

1. Preliminary Evaluation (PE) – to screen the problems quickly,
2. Engineering Analysis (EA) – to determine the character and scope of the defect,
3. Formal Investigation (Case) – the final defect determination.

During each phase, the ODI decides if it is necessary to take further action and upgrade the investigation to the next phase.

As a part of this process, most recalls are initiated voluntary by the manufacturer. In some cases, a recall will be mandated by the NHTSA or the case closed without further action.

Current Investigations

At least 200 consumer complaints of non-collision fires have been submitted to NHTSA regarding the 2011-2014 Kia Optima, Kia Sorento, Kia Soul, Hyundai Sonata, and Hyundai Santa Fe and an additional 200+ complaints of melted wires in the engine bay, smoke, and burning odors. These complaints reveal a frighteningly large number of vehicles manufactured at the same time catching fire. Altogether, over 2.2 million of these vehicles were manufactured during model years 2011-2014. The Center has petitioned NHTSA to open an investigation. Learn more.

General News


Goodyear’s 20-Year Quest To Keep Details Secret Cleveland Scene. March 21, 2018. 

Shutdown Would Force NHTSA To Stop Vehicle Investigations. The Detroit News. September 30, 2013. 

Manufacturer News


GM Deems Steering Issue Unworthy of Recall. The New York Times. April 10, 2015. 


READ MORE in our Investigations Archive. 

READ MORE in our Landmark Documents Archive.