CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Another local family says their Kia caught fire without being in a wreck. It’s a problem Channel 9 has covered since 2018. Unlike the other cases, this latest one involves a 2022 vehicle.
Kathy Basternak says she bought a 2022 Kia Sportage in July. In December, five months after purchasing it, she and her husband switched cars for the day.
Her husband was traveling on Interstate 485 when he noticed smoke coming from under the hood. “Within minutes, the whole car had engulfed in fire,” Basternak told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke.
Normally, Basternak would have been driving the car with her three children in it, she says.
“The whole entire car was on fire. Flames shooting out 10 feet up into the air and everything. It was scary,” she said.
Fortunately, her husband got out safely.
“It was horrifying,” she said. “I was in tears.”
Stoogenke has been covering Hyundai and Kia non-crash fires for years. In fact, he was one of the first in the country to report on it.
The Basternaks’ case may be the first example in the country of a 2022 model Hyundai or Kia catching fire without being in a crash. Stoogenke checked federal safety records and news reports and did not find any other examples.
Hyundai and Kia have recalled at least one 2022 model for risk of fire, the Kia Carnival minivan, but Action 9 has not heard of any fires or injuries involving that vehicle.
“All of these ‘What Ifs’ came through my mind,” Basternak said. “What if it was me driving with the kids? What if the doors would have jammed and I couldn’t get the kids out?”
Kia has recalled certain Sportages for risk of fire before. One recall covers 2017-2021 models. It even says drivers should “park their vehicles outdoors and away from other vehicles or structures.”
The legal settlement Stoogenke has reported on covers Sportages from 2011 to 2019.
But the recall and settlement came about before 2022 models, so Basternak’s vehicle would not be included.
Basternak and her husband thought Hyundai and Kia fixed the overall problem, but now they’re not sure. “I just cannot believe that a brand new car caught on fire in such a fast, unbelievable way where it just completely burned down,” she said. “I could have lost him right there. My husband and father of our three children could’ve been lost in that fire.”
Stoogenke asked Kia about 2022 models catching fire in general and about this case specifically. A spokesperson told him he passed it along to Consumer Affairs for its “prompt review.”
Stoogenke obtained a copy of the fire investigation report. It says the cause was “mechanical failure, malfunction, other.” In other words, it doesn’t say anything about a crash.
Kia says it “is proud of its strong safety record and the integrity of our products and all Kia vehicles sold in the United States meet or exceed all federal government vehicle safety standards.
“Kia America (KUS) recognizes that customer safety is paramount. All automobiles contain combustible materials, and a vehicle fire may be the result of any number of complex factors which could include a manufacturing issue, inadequate maintenance, the installation of aftermarket parts, an improper repair, arson, or some other non-vehicle source, and therefore must be carefully evaluated by a qualified and trained investigator or technician on a case-by-case basis.
“If a fire is determined to be the result of a Kia manufacturing issue, KUS will work with the customer to reach a satisfactory resolution to the matter. In regard to this particular instance, the customer contacted us on 12/2/21 and the vehicle was inspected by a third party inspector on 12/9/21.
“The cause of the fire could not be determined. Therefore, the customer was referred to the insurance company for assistance. Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact KUS’ Consumer Assistance Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia).”
If you want to file a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, call 888-327-4236 or do it online here.
(WATCH: Action 9: Another Hyundai model involved in non-crash fire)
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