Kia, Hyundai face federal investigation over string of fire risk recalls impacting 6.4 million vehicles

South Korean automakers Kia and Hyundai are facing a federal investigation into a string of recalls that impacted 6.4 million vehicles, Reuters reported Monday.

Since 2016, the automobile manufacturers have issued 16 separate recalls over fire risks as a result of brake fluid leaks.

In September, 3.3 million Kia and Hyundai cars were given a recall notice. Vehicle owners were immediately advised to “park outside” and “away from homes and other structures,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated.

“The vehicle’s anti-lock brake system module could leak brake fluid internally and cause an electrical short. An electrical short could result in significant overcurrent in the ABS module, increasing the risk of an engine compartment fire while driving or parked,” the NHTSA explained.

The agency noted that neither Hyundai nor Kia was aware of “any crashes, injuries, or fatalities associated with this defect.” Since 2017, Hyundai has recorded 21 fires and 21 other thermal incidents, according to September reporting. Kia recorded at least 10 fires and melting incidents, Reuters reported.

The recall impacted 1.64 million Hyundai vehicles, including the Accent, Azera, Elantra, Equus, Genesis, Santa Fe, Sonata HEV, Tucson, Veloster, and Veracruz with model years 2011 through 2015.

Approximately 1.73 million Kia vehicles were also recalled, including Cadenza, Forte, K900, Optima, Rio, Rondo, Sorento, Soul, and Sportage, with model years from 2010 through 2017.

On Monday, the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation announced it had launched an audit query to investigate the manufacturers’ decision and speed in issuing the recalls. The agency will evaluate the companies’ “adherence with reporting requirements; and understand the varying defect descriptions and remedies between these recalls.”

“The purpose of this [Open Audit Query] is to evaluate the timeliness and scoping of Hyundai and Kia’s defect decision making and adherence with reporting requirements; and understand the varying defect descriptions and remedies between these recalls,” the NHTSA stated.

The agency noted that all 16 recalls included the automakers’ antilock braking system modules or hydraulic electronic control units manufactured by Mando.

The automobile manufacturers also landed in hot water recently for failing to install anti-theft technology in some models. The vehicles’ ease of theft has prompted an uptick in crime.

In August, Chicago filed a lawsuit against the two automakers, blaming the companies for “a car theft crisis.” In 2022, more than 8,800 Kia and Hyundai vehicles were stolen in Chicago. New York City, Cleveland, San Diego, Milwaukee, Columbus, and Seattle are also suing the car manufacturers.

Neither Hyundai nor Kia responded to a request for comment from Reuters.

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