The Center for Auto Safety is petitioning the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to investigate certain Hyundai and Kia models built in the U.S., following an unusually high number of complaints of spontaneous fires.
In the petition filed with the NHTSA, the consumer watchdog group points to a high number of consumer complaints about four models, all from model years 2011 to 2014: the Kia Optima and Sorento, and the Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe.
According to the group 120 complaints of fires have been submitted, along with 229 complaints of melted wires in the engine bay, smoke and burning odors. The number of incidents suggests there is a potential systemic issue that needs to be found so a remedy can be developed. Altogether, more than 2.2 million of these defective vehicles were manufactured during those years.
At least six people have been injured as a result.
In one of the complaints to the NHTSA, a 2012 Hyundai Sonata owner said his car burst into flames only after an hour of sitting parked outside of a store. A fire investigator said that an electrical short caused the wires and tubes in the engine compartment to melt and drip on a pile of leaves, starting the fire.
"An important question is whether these commonalities indicate potential flaws in the manufacturing process that is worthy of immediate investigation, not only into the vehicles but the oversight and safety processes at these facilities. In the alternative, supplier error may be responsible," the Center for Auto Safety said in a news release.
The NHTSA has 120 days to respond to the petition. The agency said it would review the petition and take action if warranted. In the meantime, the Center for Auto Safety continues to work to inform the public of the fire risk these vehicles present and the need for a recall and repairs as soon as possible.
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