US safety agency opens probes into Hyundai and Kia fires


DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government's highway safety agency has decided to open two new investigations into fires involving Hyundai and Kia vehicles after getting complaints of more than 3,100 fires and 103 injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said today it granted a petition filed last June seeking the investigations by the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, a consumer advocacy group.

The investigations, one for Hyundai and the other for Kia, cover noncrash fires in almost 3 million vehicles from the affiliated Korean automakers. The probes cover the 2011 through 2014 Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe, the 2011 through 2014 Kia Optima and Sorento, and the 2010 through 2015 Kia Soul. The complaints came from consumers and from data provided by both automakers.

One death was reported involving a Kia vehicle, according to the documents.

NHTSA had previously said it would incorporate the noncrash fires into a 2017 investigation that examined recalls of Hyundai and Kia vehicles for engine failures. It opened the new probes "based on the agency's analysis of information received from multiple manufacturers, consumer complaints and other sources."

Jason Levine, executive director of the center, said in a statement that it is long past time for the agency to investigate why so many Kia and Hyundai vehicles have caught fire when not involved in crashes.

"While it may be six months post-due, we are gratified to see NHTSA's Office of Defect Investigations open formal investigations based on our petition," Levine said.

The center contended that there are more noncrash fires in the Hyundai and Kia cars and SUVs than in similar vehicles made by other automakers.

Messages were left Monday seeking comment from Hyundai, Kia and the safety agency.

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