Investigation into Hyundai and Kia recall of 6.4 million cars due to fire risk

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A probe by a US safety body will examine the way the South Korean car maker handled a spate of recalls over the last seven years.


Safety authorities in the US have announced a probe into the recall of 6.4 million Hyundai and Kia cars in North America after a risk of fire was determined, according to news agency Reuters.

A total of 16 individual recalls – eight for Hyundai and eight for Kia – have been issued in the US since 2016 prompted by potentially faulty anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and hydraulic electronic control units (HECU).

The recalls were to address the risk of the fluid leaking from either component which could result in an electrical short and cause a fire.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – the chief road safety body in the US – said it will audit the timeliness and effectiveness of the company’s decisions, with Hyundai and Kia sister brands within the same parent organisation, Hyundai Motor Group (HMG).

The safety body will also evaluate Hyundai and Kia’s “adherence with reporting requirements; and understand the varying defect descriptions and remedies between these recalls,” according to Reuters.

Both brands have said that they will cooperate with the NHSTA on the issue.

The most recent recall, issued in September 2023, included advising owners of 3.3 million vehicles to park outside to avoid the spread of fire, which could occur when the vehicle is being driven or is switched off and parked.

In the US, Hyundai has confirmed 42 fires and ‘thermal incidents’ since 2017, with 10 incidents for Kia vehicles.

There have also been multiple cases of Hyundai and Kia vehicles catching fire in Australia, however none have been directly linked to the ABS or HECU modules. 

The most recent recall for potential fire risks across the two brands in Australia was issued on 2 August 2023 for the Kia Sportage and Sorento SUVs, and the Kia Cerato hatchback.

Hyundai Australia’s most recent fire risk recall notice came on 23 July 2023, issued for Hyundai Veloster sports car and Hyundai Tucson SUV.

A class action against Hyundai Australia was filed by legal firm Maurice Blackburn in December 2022, with a similar lawsuit against Kia Australia following in March 2023.

In February 2023, a class action against Hyundai and Kia alleging ‘defective engines, including fire risk was filed in the Australian Supreme Court by law firm Johnson Winter Slattery.

Both Maurice Blackburn and Johnson Winter Slattery’s class actions are ongoing, with outcomes in either case not expected until sometime in 2024.

Hyundai Australia and Kia Australia were contacted by Drive regarding the class actions, however, both declined to offer any official comment.

This is not the first time NHSTA has examined Hyundai and Kia’s recall process in North America.

A separate issue in November 2020 saw the Hyundai Motor Group fined a combined $US210 million by the NHSTA for ‘untimely’ recalls of vehicles fitted with Theta II engines and said the car maker supplied inaccurate information to the safety body.

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