Federal regulators are opening a probe into whether 2.9 million Kia and Hyundai cars have a disproportionately high risk of randomly catching fire, and it only took ten months, 3,000 complaints, and an alleged 100 injuries and one death to make it happen.
The models under investigation are the 2011-2014 Kia Optima and Sorento, the 2010-2015 Kia Soul, and the 2011-2014 Hyundai Sonata and Sante Fe.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says it counted a total of 1,181 complaints about non-crash fires in Hyundai cars and 1,784 in Kias. Drivers reported 100 injuries as a result of the fires, and one woman in Ohio says she watched her son burn to death in a Kia Soul in 2017.
It was last June when the Center for Auto Safety sent a petition to NHTSA asking for it to look into the issue, after the consumer group counted 120 reports in the NHTSA consumer complaint database describing a fire breaking out during an otherwise uneventful drive.
NHTSA announced on April 1 that it would grant the group’s petition, and it will start by assessing “the scope, frequency, and potential safety-related consequences of alleged defects relating to non-collision vehicle fires” in the cars.
Hyundai and Kia recently issued a recall due over fire risks on 534,000 of the potentially affected cars, but the carmakers said there were no injuries or deaths linked to the defect. Their proposed fix is a software update.
The two automakers had downplayed the fire reports before finally issuing that recall.