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NHTSA Opens Probe Into 3 Million Hyundai and Kia Vehicles Over Fires; Veloster Recalled Over Stalling Issue

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By on April 1, 2019

This isn’t an April Fools joke, sadly, for Hyundai and Kia Motors. After years of investigations and the recall of over 2.3 million models, Hyundai’s engine controversy has sparked a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Agency probe into nearly 3 million vehicles.

Immediately preceding the weekend, Hyundai recalled 16,487 Velosters to mend a software glitch that could lead to stalling and fires. The automaker just can’t seem to turn down the heat on a quality issue that simmered for years before boiling over.

We’ll cover the safety probe first. The NHTSA claims its investigation is a direct result of the advocacy efforts of the Center for Auto Safety, which has rung the alarm bell on the spate of non-crash fires in older Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

After receiving reports of 3,100 fires, 103 injuries, and a single death “based on the agency’s analysis of information received from multiple manufacturers, consumer complaints and other sources,” the federal safety agency launched a two-pronged investigation; one for Hyundai, another for Kia. Vehicles under scrutiny are the 2011-2014 Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe, 2011-2014 Kia Optima and Sorento, and the 2010-2015 Kia Soul.

In its petition to the agency, the Center for Auto Safety outlined how certain Hyundai and Kia models, in the absence of crashes, pose a greater fire risk than other vehicles. It isn’t just the product of the automaker’s well-publicised engine debris issues, either. While some owners complained of engine fires, other reports noted fires involving tail light housings, wiring harnesses, and light bulbs.

Last November, the U.S. launched a criminal investigation into the automaker to determine if it handled the recall process in a timely enough manner. The impetus came from a South Korean whistleblower who shed light on the company’s handling of the matter, raising concerns that the recalls were unnecessarily delayed — and covered too few vehicles.

As for last Friday’s recall, the callback covers 16,487 2013 Hyundai Veloster hatchbacks. Hyundai claims faulty software could lead to engine stalls or a fire. The electronic glitch could lead to the premature ignition of the fuel-air mix, leading to higher-than-normal pressures and potential engine damage.

This problem isn’t related to the engine issue that plagued millions of vehicles equipped with the automaker’s Theta II four-cylinders. With those engines, engine debris left over from the manufacturing process can prevent proper oil flow, damaging connecting rod bearings.

[Sources: Associated Press, Reuters] [Image: Hyundai]

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