A timeline of the dramatic Kia recalls.
This week is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's "Vehicle Safety Recalls Week," and also, fittingly, a resurgence of the NHTSA-Kia recall saga. Below, a timeline—and if you have a 2017-2021 Sportage SUV or a 2017-2019 Cadenza sedan, make sure you read to the end.
Back in 2019, according to ABC News, NHTSA "began investigating Kia and Hyundai engine fires. The agency opened the probe after the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety filed a petition seeking the investigation." And what they found was startling: "Owner complaints of more than 3,100 fires, 103 injuries and one death."
In November 2020, NHTSA announced consent orders with Kia and Hyundai, which fined both automakers over $210 million in combined penalties for failing to recall the faulty vehicles quickly enough. In those same consent orders, NHTSA sought to "establish both monetary and non-monetary measures designed to enhance each company’s safety practices." In a statement released on November 27, 2020, NHTSA stated:
"... Both Hyundai and Kia conducted untimely recalls of over 1.6 million vehicles equipped with Theta II engines, and inaccurately reported certain information to NHTSA regarding the recalls ... In addition to monetary penalties, Kia will be creating a new U.S. safety office headed by a Chief Safety Officer, and Hyundai will be building a U.S. test facility for safety investigations ... Under the agreements, each company will retain an independent, Third-Party Auditor, who will directly report to NHTSA. Each Third-Party Auditor will conduct a comprehensive review of the company’s Safety Act practices and compliance with the consent order."
“Safety," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens, "is NHTSA’s top priority. It’s critical that manufacturers appropriately recognize the urgency of their safety recall responsibilities and provide timely and candid information to the agency about all safety issues.”
ABC News reported, "Kia denied the U.S. allegations but said it wanted to avoid a protracted legal fight." MotorSafety.org explained that "Neither Kia nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have found a definite cause for the high rates of engine fire in these models," but "Kia said that the recall was a “preventative measure” that would attempt to address any existing fuel leaks, oil leaks, or engine damage to mitigate fire risks."
According to USA Today, owners of the aforementioned vehicles would start to be notified of the recalls on January 27, at which point "Dealers will inspect the engines for fuel or oil leaks and replace them if necessary."
But wait—there's more.
Today, ABC News reports that "Kia is telling owners of nearly 380,000 vehicles in the U.S. to park them outdoors due to the risk of an engine compartment fire." Beginning April 30, Kia will notify owners of another recall similar to the last. "The Korean automaker is recalling certain 2017 through 2021 Sportage SUVs and 2017 through 2019 Cadenza sedans to fix the problem." The recall won't apply to all Kia cars of that make and model, since according to Kia, "the recalled vehicles are not equipped with Kia's Smart Cruise Control system." For those cars that do fit the description, "... a short circuit in the hydraulic electronic brake control unit can cause excessive current, increasing the risk of a fire. Dealers will replace fuses in the electrical junction box to fix the problem."
Since the recalls will not be made until April 30, what should you do now if you own one of the soon-to-be-recalled cars? "Park them away from structures until repairs are made." Also, watch out for these signs: "tire pressure, anti-lock brake or other warning lights on (your) dashboard" or a "burning or melting odor." Never fear—in a Safety Recall Report published on March 4 by NHTSA, Kia says it has no reports of crashes, fires, or injuries due to this current problem.
What's your take on how Kia has handled these recalls? Share in the comments.