Hyundai and Kia set aside $758 million to settle engine fire cases

Recently, Hyundai and its affiliate Kia recalled almost 1.7 million vehicles sold in the U.S. The problem? An unacceptable risk of engine fires. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received reports of over 3,000 engine fires and more than 100 injuries.

Together, Hyundai and Kia make up the world’s fifth largest automaker, as determined by sales. The problematic vehicles were also sold in South Korea.

Now, the auto makers have agreed to settle a class action case brought by consumers. Although only 1.7 million vehicles were recalled in the U.S., a total of 4.17 million vehicles are affected by a recent settlement. Hyundai has set aside about 600 billion South Korean won and Kia another 300 billion won. Together, these commitments total approximately $758 million U.S.

The affected vehicles are Hyundai and Kia models that come equipped with Theta II gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines. The auto makers have announced that, as part of the settlement, they will install monitoring software that will look out for symptoms of engine failure. They will also take other steps, such as providing compensation to victims and offering lifetime warranties on some of the affected vehicles.

Federal prosecutors investigating the recall

In 2016, a Hyundai engineer traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss the recall with NHTSA. Citing an internal report, he told the agency that Hyundai and Kia should have recalled more vehicles than they did.

That prompted NHTSA to investigate whether the recall had covered all of the potentially defective vehicles and whether it was conducted in a timely fashion. That investigation has been underway since 2017.

Then, in November 2018, Reuters reported that federal prosecutors had launched a criminal probe into the recall.

In June, the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety petitioned NHTSA to investigate further. This year, NHTSA opened a fresh investigation into the problems leading to the recall. As many as 3 million vehicles, in total, may be affected by the defect.

Is my car affected by the recall?

You can determine whether your Hyundai or Kia vehicle has been recalled by finding your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and entering it into NHTSA’s recall look-up site. Your VIN can be found at several locations on your car, including inside the driver’s side door and at the base of your windshield on the driver’s side. It has 17 characters.

If your vehicle is included in the recall, you should stop driving it until your dealer can address the defect. Whether your car is currently included in the recall, be aware that any Hyundai or Kia with a Theta II gasoline direct injection (GDI) engine could be potentially dangerous. If your engine catches on fire, pull over and exit immediately. Stand as far away as you can and call 911.

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