It all began last June when the Center for Auto Safety (CAS), a US-based nonprofit group, demanded Hyundai and Kia recall 2.9 million vehicles, specifically the 2011-2014 Kia Sorento and Optima, and the Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe. The 2010-2015 Kia Soul has also since been added. The issue at hand is an alleged fire risk.
According to the nonprofit, over 200 customer complaints had been filed with the US government since 2010 about those fires. There was also an additional 200 customer complaints regarding melted wires and smoke and burning odors. The CAS made another forced recall attempt in October, but only now are those affected owners taking further action.
The Detroit Bureau reports that those owners have now filed a class action suit against the automakers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is already investigating the cause of those fires, but this group of owners has taken matters into their own hands, and for good reason. These fires have been occurring for several years now, but sources say it hasn't been easy separating these engine fires from those fires that occurred due to an accident. For example, over 400 fires were reported, but only 120 fit the description in the lawsuit itself. Once government safety investigators got involved, they soon realized the problem in the "Theta II" engines could be significant.
So far, Hyundai and Kia have recalled 1.6 million US-built vehicles (CAS wanted 2.9 vehicles recalled) manufactured from 2011 to 2014, but these angry owners claim that recall doesn't go far enough. They specifically claim that there's an engine defect which restricts oil flow to main engine parts. In turn, this causes premature wear and failure which eventually causes an engine fire.
"Over the past three years, we have held numerous meetings with the Department of Transportation and NHTSA representatives, and proactively discussed and identified possible safety items for NHTSA's evaluation, including the engine recalls," Hyundai Motor said in an official statement. "NHTSA has been fully briefed and kept apprised of these recalls and low rates of associated non-collision fires."
What happens next depends on whether a judge will dismiss the suit or allow it to go forward. The law suit also adds some pressure to government regulators to determine the ultimate cause of the fires, as well as for Hyundai and Kia. Engine fires without an exact cause is not exactly good publicity.