Kia is recalling 379,931 vehicles including the 2017-2019 Cadenza and 2017-2021 Sportage models. The reason? A risk of an electrical short in the engine compartment that could lead to a fire, according to documents published on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website.
The risk is real enough that Kia recommends owners park their vehicle outside and away from structures until they can have the faulty part replaced.
The short circuit occurs within the hydraulic electronic control unit, but the exact cause is unknown at this time. Owners may see the pressure light, ABS light or MIL light go on on the dashboard before the fire starts, or possibly smell or see smoke. Kia will begin notifying owners of the recall beginning April 30, and dealers will address it by replacing the fuses in the electrical junction box.
Kia said it is not aware of any fires resulting from a short circuit with the affected models. Problems related to fire hazards are starting to mount for the Hyundai/Kia group, however. In fall of last year, the two automakers recalled 591,000 units for a brake fluid leak that could cause a fire. Earlier in 2020, Hyundai recalled 430,000 Elantras for the possibility of water getting into the ABS module and starting a fire.
Recently, it was the electric Kona that was recalled.
Associated Press estimates that six million vehicles built by Hyundai and Kia have been recalled for fire or engine failure risks since 2015. In 2019, NHTSA launched an investigation of three million Hyundai and Kia vehicles over potential fire hazards. The vehicles involved in that inquiry were 2010-2015 Hyundai and Kia models with 2.0L and 2.4L engines. In addition to the recalls, the investigation resulted in Hyundai and Kia being fined $210 million for taking too long to recall certain vehicles.
While it's true that Korean engine reliability has made great strides in the past 10 years, both automakers have been dealing with a host of other glitches for some time. The situation is not yet alarming, but it is worrisome. If the two groups want to continue their climb to the top, they will need to address these issues quickly.