Hyundai and Kia’s Reputation Goes Up in Smoke

Hyundai and Kia are to be investigated in the US of A by the National Highway Transport Safety Agency (NHTSA) after more than 3,100 complaints were received about fires that have led to 103 injuries and one death. The investigation will look at how often fires happen, how many vehicles are affected and the safety-related consequences.

Although the two companies are a part of the same Korean Chaebol, the NHTSA has filed individual cases against the companies. The investigation will cover only non-crash fires, looking specifically at the 2011 to 2014 Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe, the 2011 to 2014 Kia Optima and Sorento and the 2010 to 2015 Kia Soul.


In 2017, there had been a recall of both Hyundai and Kia vehicles due to an engine failure issue. To date, the companies have ‘fixed’ roughly 2.4 million cars for problems that they say “may have lead to engine failures and possibly fires”. The NHTSA did say that the complaints they were investigating were all engine compartment fires.

The Centre for Auto Safety, which is a non-profit consumer advocacy group in the USA, was responsible for prodding the NHTSA into action after it highlighted the issue of spontaneous combusting Hyundai and Kia cars in June of last year. The Centre contends that there is a significantly higher incident of non-crash fires when compared to vehicles made by other manufacturers.

Image source: Dailymail

Most of the engine failures occur in the Hyundai 2- and 2.4-litre Theta II four-cylinder engines. Manufacturing debris is known to clog a port and stop the flow of oil, causing the connecting rod bearings to overheat and fail. This in turn damages the engine block, causing oil to leak and potentially catch fire.

In a separate move, the NHTSA also announced a recall of some 20,000 Velostar cars with the 1.6-litre engine because fuel can prematurely ignite in the cylinders around the pistons. This has been proved to cause excessive pressure in the engine, leading to damage resulting in stalled engines and, in some cases, an engine bay fire. This follows a voluntary recall of the Kia Soul with the same sized engine for fire and engine fail reasons that were said to be yet another and separate issue.

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