Car Fires, Recalls and Help (or Lack Thereof)

by Aryn Plax

Dec 3, 2020

Vehicle fires are among the worst-case scenarios for vehicle defects. Some automakers issue recalls on these faulty vehicles. Some of these recalls are preceded by class action lawsuits against automakers. Often, vehicle fires result in irreversible damage, injuries and deaths.

Hyundai Motor Company, through its subsidiaries Hyundai and Kia, issued several recalls on the following vehicles for the risk of fires:

• 2006–2011 Hyundai Elantra
• 2007–2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring
• 2019–2021 Hyundai Tucson
• 2019–2021 Kia Stinger
• 2013–2015 Kia Optima
• 2014–2015 Kia Sorento
• 2013–2015 Hyundai Santa Fe
• 2012–2016 Kia Soul

These recalls did not come soon enough for some vehicle drivers.

Photo description: Firefighters struggle to put out a car fire.

A man rented a 2019 Kia Soul while on vacation with his mother, only to sustain burns in a vehicle fire and spend his last year of life in an intensive care unit. Another driver escaped with her life after her 2011 Kia Optima burst into flames.

An odd technicality could exclude several affected vehicles from a safety recall. After a recall on 2012–2016 Kia Soul vehicles was issued, two drivers of excluded 2015 Kia Soul models told local media outlets that their vehicles burst into flames. Exclusion from a recall often leaves affected consumers without simple recourse.

Owners of Kia and Hyundai models are not the only consumers to claim that help came too little, too late. Though Nissan issued a recall in December 2019 for vehicles at risk of fires, owners and lessees claim that Nissan offers little help to those that already experienced the problem.

The issue of vehicle fires gets more complicated with electric vehicles. Federal authorities launched an investigation into 2017–2020 Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles because they received reports of these EVs catching fire. Though firefighters have some protocols for putting out fires in traditional vehicles, only 25% of U.S. fire departments have training for putting out EV fires.

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