CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Some drivers say their Hyundais and Kias caught fire without being in a wreck.
Michaela Fink said she was driving a Kia Optima in Stallings.
"I was just driving down the road and I had both hands on the wheel and I realized I had no power steering and, immediately, I went for the brake. I didn't have any brakes. And, then, I saw smoke everywhere," she told Action 9. "I started seeing flames and I thought, 'I'm about to die.'"
She got out of the car. "I was just in such panic, crying and crying and crying," she said. "If I had had a child in that car, they wouldn't have lived ... they would be dead."
Debbie Morris told Action 9 her Kia Soul wasn't even moving. She said she had just come home from shopping and that the car was parked in front of her house in Waxhaw.
"It was a big fire, a big fire," she said. "I mean, it was in flames within two minutes."
Action 9 found another claim from the Charlotte area about the issue. It involves a Hyundai Sonata.
Someone in Charlotte filed the complaint with the federal safety agency, NHTSA. It mentions "fire" and "smoke" at "40 mph."
The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) said it went through all of NHTSA's records and counted more than 230 complaints of Hyundais and Kias catching fire without being in a wreck.
2011-2014 Kia Sorentos, Kia Optimas, Hyundai Sonatas, and Hyundai Santa Fes
2010-2015 Kia Souls
CAS said at least six people have been hurt in those fires. In some cases -- like Fink's -- the vehicles had gone through an engine recall and been repaired, but still caught fire later.
"It's traumatic. It's really bad," Fink said.
In June, CAS asked NHTSA to investigate. Just last week, CAS's executive director, Jason Levine, also demanded Hyundai and Kia recall roughly 3 million vehicles. "It's time that they do something more dramatic and that more dramatic step is getting these 3 million vehicles off the road," Levine said.
Kia emailed Action 9 this statement:
"Kia shares the goals of both the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) and NHTSA to assure the safety of the vehicles we sell to our customers and which are driven on American roads.
Although KMA has concerns about the methodology and analysis used by the CAS for evaluating vehicle safety or identifying a vehicle defect, KMA acknowledges all automobiles contain combustible materials and a vehicle fire may be the result of any number of complex factors, such as a manufacturing issue, inadequate maintenance, the installation of aftermarket parts, an improper repair, arson, or some other non-vehicle source, and must be carefully evaluated by a qualified and trained investigator or technician.
KMA recognizes that customer safety is paramount and is committed to addressing every thermal incident. To quickly and effectively address these incidents, KMA is using in-house and third party fireinvestigation companies, engaged an independent senior fire expert to evaluate the results of such fire event investigations and is consulting with a recent former head of NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation to evaluate the organization’s response to these incidents.
KMA encourages customers to remedy any open recalls as quickly as possible, including certain 2011- 2014 model year Sorento and Optima vehicles identified in June of 2017 (NHTSA Recall Number 17V224) by taking their vehicle to the nearest Kia dealership. Additional information about open recalls may be found by visiting https://www.kia.com/us/en/content/owners/safety-recall or through www. safercar.gov. If a recall is unable to be remedied immediately, KMA will provide alternate transportation at no cost to the customer until their vehicle is repaired or another satisfactory resolution is determined.
Owners are encouraged to contact Kia Consumer Affairs at 800-333-4542 with any questions or concerns related to this matter."
STATEMENT FROM HYUNDAI:
Hyundai said it did an exhaustive study into non-collision fires and confirmed no defects other than those it disclosed in previous recalls.
The company also said, “Nothing is more important than the safety and security of Hyundai customers. Hyundai actively monitors and evaluates potential safety concerns, including non-collision fires, with all of its vehicles and acts swiftly to recall any vehicles with safety-related defects.
Hyundai has recalled more than one million vehicles (certain model year 2011-2014 Sonatas and 2013-2014 Santa Fe Sports) in two separate actions in 2015 and 2017 (NHTSA 15V-568 and 17V-226) to address a manufacturing issue that could lead to bearing wear and engine failure. In certain circumstances the affected engines have caught on fire.
Hyundai is working collaboratively with NHTSA on these recalls, which to date have completion rates of 86 and 71 percent respectively, versus an industry average of 69 percent for recalled engines.
Hyundai continues to make every effort to contact customers who have not had the recall completed, including through traditional mailings, digital correspondence, owner website alerts, and in-vehicle notification through Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics systems and its monthly vehicle health reports.
Hyundai has also launched a new online resource for the recalls, www.HyundaiEngineInfo.com, where customers can learn more about the recall condition, what indications and signs to look for in their vehicle, and what steps they should take so we can fix the condition at no cost. We have also enhanced our customer service response for these vehicles by adding staff and resources so we can more quickly respond to and address any questions or concerns a customer may have.
In the rare case of a fire that results from a potential product defect, Hyundai takes immediate action to have the vehicle inspected, often with independent engineering and fire investigator experts, to determine the cause and works directly with the customer on a resolution. That includes covering expenses associated with the incident and offering complimentary transportation through a rental car or ride sharing, among other actions.
Hyundai values its continued cooperative relationship with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and NHTSA. Over the past three years, we have held numerous meetings with DOT and NHTSA representatives, and proactively discussed and identified possible safety items for NHTSA’s evaluation, including the engine recalls. NHTSA has been fully briefed and kept apprised of these recalls and low rates of associated non-collision fires.
Customers who have any question or concern with their Hyundai vehicle should contact the Hyundai Customer Care Center at hyundaiusa.com, (800) 633-5151, or email@example.com."
If it happens to you, first ensure your own your safety.
Then, take pictures and/or video to document what happened.
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