HOUSTON – More than 6.5 million vehicles are under recall because they could catch fire at any moment. While that is alarming, what may be more disturbing are the vehicles at risk that are not included in the massive recall.
Imagine driving down the road and your car starts to fill up with smoke, and then with no warnings or signals, it goes up in flames. It is happening repeatedly to dozens of Hyundai and Kia cars and SUVs. Some drivers say the carmaker isn’t doing enough to warn drivers of the danger.
Brittany Wolfe watched her 2013 Kia Soul go up in flames seconds after she escaped the driver’s seat.
“Everything was just popping,” she explained. “The windows blew out, the windshield blew out... everything.”
Wolfe said no lights illuminated on the dash to let her know there was a problem before the sudden fire started.
“If I would have had children in the back seat, I would have died trying to get them out because of how fast it went up and the glass blew,” she told consumer expert Amy Davis.
Ongoing fire risk
The fires in Hyundai and Kia vehicles are a well-documented problem. Over the last several years, Kia and Hyundai have recalled more than 6.5 million vehicles for defects that could cause fires including models from 2010 all the way to brand new 2021 vehicles. But Brittany’s Soul was never recalled.
“I would have gone the day that I got the recall notice,” Brittany said.
When we contacted Kia to find out why some 2013 Souls are under recall, but not others, a spokesman sent this statement:
“Kia is proud of its strong safety record and the integrity of our products and all Kia vehicles sold in the United States meet or exceed all federal government vehicle safety standards. Kia America (KUS) recognizes that customer safety is paramount and is committed to addressing every thermal incident. All automobiles contain combustible materials, and a vehicle fire may be the result of any number of complex factors, such as a manufacturing issue, inadequate maintenance, the installation of aftermarket parts, an improper repair, arson, or some other non-vehicle source, and therefore must be carefully evaluated by a qualified and trained investigator or technician on a case-by-case basis. If a fire is determined to be the result of a Kia manufacturing issue, KUS will work with the customer to reach a satisfactory resolution to the matter.
In this particular case, based on the provided VIN, there is one applicable recall (SC112 - 2010-2013 MY Soul equipped with Sunroof - Headliner Plate Safety) and is not connected to any other recalls or related safety campaigns. If a safety defect is detected through the course of vehicle monitoring, Kia notifies NHTSA within the five days mandated by 49 CFR 573 and conducts a voluntary recall.
Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact KUS’ Consumer Assistance
Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia)”
Sure, Brittany’s fire just happened in May, but Kia and regulators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have been investigating the issue for years.
More than two years later, NHTSA told consumer expert Amy Davis “the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations.”
“This shouldn’t be normal,” Brittany said. “This is not supposed to happen. This isn’t okay.”
“It’s a pretty significant problem,” confirmed Jason Levine, the executive director for The Center for Auto Safety. Levine said his organization pushed for federal regulators to recall all 2013 Kia Souls, but NHTSA did not. He says it is up to NHTSA to push Kia to move as quickly as possible to help consumers.
“And unfortunately, it’s not clear that they’ve gotten their hands around the whole problem,” he said.
While Brittany has not been able to get any answers from Kia about why her vehicle burst into flames, her insurance did pay her to replace her vehicle. Brittany believes most consumers just stop there and move on, instead of pushing the carmaker to expand the recalls.
Here is a list of all of the vehicles recalled because of the risk of fires. You can type your VIN in here to find out if there are any open recalls for your vehicle. https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls