U.S. Steps Up Investigation into Hyundai-Kia Engine Failures and Fires

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DETROIT – U.S. auto safety regulators have stepped up a series of investigations into the engine fires that have plagued Hyundai and Kia vehicles for more than six years.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a new technical analysis investigation covers more than 3 million vehicles from the 2011 to 2016 model years. The agency has received 161 complaints of engine fires, some of which have occurred in vehicles that had already been recalled.

Engine failures and fires have plagued Korean automakers’ vehicles since September 2015, when the company issued an engine failure recall. Since then, it has issued at least eight more recalls for a host of engine issues, according to NHTSA documents posted on its website on Monday.

The agency says it opens the technical analysis assess whether previous recalls covered enough vehicles. It will also monitor the effectiveness of previous recalls “as well as the long-term viability of related programs and non-safety field actions by Hyundai and Kia.”

Technical analysis could lead to further recalls.

Hyundai said on Monday that it is fully cooperating with US regulators.

“Hyundai has taken a number of proactive steps to resolve engine issues, including issuing multiple recalls, launching new engine monitoring technology, offering extended warranties and improving our customer service response,” said the company in a press release. “Hyundai fosters a culture of transparency and accountability, because the safety of our customers is a top priority in everything we do. “

Kia did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The vehicle fires involve the Theta II GDI, Theta II MPI, Theta II MPI hybrid, Nu GDI and Gamma GDI engines of the affected Korean automakers. Models covered include Hyundai’s Sonata, Santa Fe and Elantra, as well as Kia’s Sorento, Rio, Optima and Soul. Model years covered are 2011 through 2016.

The agency says three people have reported eye injuries and burns that did not require medical treatment.

In November 2020, the NHTSA announced that Kia and Hyundai must pay a $ 137 million fine and for the improvement of safety, because they moved too slowly to recall more than a million vehicles whose engines can fail. The fines resolve a previous investigation into corporate behavior involving recalls of several models dating from the 2011 model year.

Kia was to pay $ 27 million and invest $ 16 million in safety performance measures. Another payment of $ 27 million will be deferred as long as Kia meets safety conditions, NHTSA said.

Kia has denied the US claims, but said it wanted to avoid a protracted legal fight.

Data collected by the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety shows 31 fire and engine-related recalls in the United States of Hyundai and Kia since 2015. The recalls involve more than 20 models from the 2006 to 2021 model years, totaling more than 8.4 million vehicles.

Many recalls involved manufacturing defects that prevented oil from draining into the engine block. Many involved expensive engine replacements.

Hyundai and Kia have also conducted a “product improvement campaign” in the United States covering 3.7 million vehicles to install software that will alert drivers of possible engine failures.


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