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Spontaneously Combusting Kias and Hyundais? NHTSA Inquiry Requested

The Center for Auto Safety in the U.S. has petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the American equivalent of Transport Canada, to open an investigation into reports it has received of an abnormally high number of spontaneous, unprovoked fires in some Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

The models concerned are 2011-2014 editions of the Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe, as well as of the Kia Optima and Sorento. According to the NHTSA’s own database, 120 owners have filed complaints after their vehicle caught fire without apparent reason. In addition, 229 cases have been noted of cables having melted in the engine compartment, of unexplained smoke or of a burning odour being detected – all possible signs of a potential fire.

These types of occurrences are not in themselves all that exceptional, but the Center for Auto Safety tallied complaints regarding these events that were filed with the NHTSA, and found that only 22 similar situations were recorded for all vehicles made by all other auto manufacturers over the same period.

These numbers confirm that there is an issue specific to the models cited by the Center. All of the models were assembled at a plant in West Point, Georgia, except for the Sonata, which was built in Montgomery, Alabama.

For the moment, no official statement has been issued by either manufacturer. Nor has any recall been issued regarding these models. For now, only a request has been made by the Center for Auto Safety asking the NHTSA to study the data and its recorded complaints in more details.

If you own one of the models cited, you’ll of course want to stay alert to any more information that may be forthcoming.