My car's on fire: Drivers fear for their safety as years-long recall rollout drags on
Marketplace and Go Public investigation reveals flaws with Canada's recall system
Hyundai and Kia drivers say they fear getting behind the wheel of their own cars with the risk of engine fires and failures hanging over their heads.
The recalls on millions of these vehicles have dragged on for years starting in 2015 with more models and years still being added.
Now, a joint Marketplace and Go Public investigation exposes flaws in the Canadian recall system — one that relies largely on automakers to identify and address their own safety issues — that allows that to happen.
Each recall names very specific models and years, often excluding cars with the exact same engine, only to add those vehicles and others months or years later.
Producers interviewed drivers with sudden engine failures and fires, yet their Hyundai and Kia models were not on any recall list. Some of those interviewed said their car engines died or caught fire without warning, even after an early detection system meant to warn drivers about a possible fire or engine failure was installed.
"That is a very serious safety issue," said car safety advocate George Iny. "We need to have, I would say, a wary eye over this recall."
Some of the recalls describe metal debris found in the engines that can wear out the bearings. Others were issued to deal with problematic repairs done on an earlier recall.
And the latest recalls warn about an ABS brake-fluid leak that can cause a short-circuit and an oil leak that can drip into the alternator.
All share the same safety risk: sudden engine failure or spontaneous fire. Both of which can be dangerous for drivers like Kisha Taylor, whose car engine died while she was travelling on a Greater Toronto Area highway in September 2020.
'Is this how my life will come to an end?' '
She said, "I'm driving on the 407, and I notice that my foot is on the gas pedal but I'm getting nothing," I'm in the middle of the highway and this thing is approaching quickly.
Am I going to be murdered?" '"
Go Public posted on engine issues with Hyundai and Kia vehicles in March 2019 after numerous viewers alerted the media that their vehicle had unexpectedly died or started on fire, but was told that their model or year is exempt from the recall.
There were only a handful of recalls released relating to metallic debris and oil leaks at the time. Since then, at least 16 additional campaigns have been announced, many of which are not actual recalls but rather "Product Improvement Campaigns."
It deploys a Knock Sensor Detection System (KSDS), which is expected to minimize the risk by alerting the driver that their engine is about to malfunction. It places the car in a "protection" mode that lets the driver ride to a nearby dealership to get the problem diagnosed and fixed.
But, 7 incidents were recorded where vehicles manufactured by Hyundai and Kia died despite having the KSDS fitted.
In response to this, the companies argue that the engines may have died or caught fire for reasons unrelated to the engine recall.
Taylor didn't know her used 2015 Santa Fe Sport had already undergone two recalls due to engine failure and fire, which includes the KSDS.
The car died on the highway less than two weeks after she purchased it.
Due to the recall on October 31st, 2020, she was warned of engine failure and fire risk. This time, parking the car outside and away from buildings eliminates the risk of fire since the car is off while it is parked.
I have had too many problems with this vehicle to feel comfortable and confident when driving it. It's fair to say that I'm still anxiously expecting something else is going to happen with this car.
Hyundai claimed in an email that its KSDS program was independently checked by engineers and is "state-of-the-art."
Automaker officials confirmed that they constantly track new safety issues and will "continue to issue new recalls or expand existing ones," as appropriate, explaining that engine failures and fires are not always due to manufacturing defects.
The so-called Quality Enhancement Campaign should never have been given the green light in the first place, according to car safety advocacy group member Jason Levine from the Center for Auto Safety.
There is no debate on whether it would work or not, the discussion is about what exactly does it do? It's not intended to do anything about stopping the flames, he explained.
This program fixes a hardware problem.
The Vehicle Security Association has found another issue with Canada's recall scheme, and how it largely leaves it to car manufacturers to find and handle safety issues.
We are highly dependent on the car manufacturer's goodwill, says George Iny, the APA's director.
He wondered if we should trust the two car manufacturers who took over six years to issue more than 20 recalls for a similar problem, and he concluded by asking: "Can we trust them now?" "
Cooperative cooperation of the car producers is asserted by Transport Canada.
Transport Canada told us that it has already recommended recalls to Kia and Hyundai, and the manufacturers are working together on both of them.
The federal transportation department revealed that their own inquiries have prompted at least 11 of the recalls and extended warranties for vehicles with possible issues.
Levine noted that, in the United States and Canada, Hyundai and Kia should have understood that additional vehicles needed to be recalled prior to being told to do so by the regulators, stating that these companies would have a clearer understanding of the nature of the issue after hearing from consumers.
When it comes to problems with their vehicle, buyers are unlikely to go straight to the government. They are more likely to go back to the people who can fix the problem, which is the dealership, the seller, or someone similar.
Levine claimed that his petition to the federal government was based on the approximately 120 fire complaints he had received from customers about Hyundai and Kia automobiles. However, it was later discovered that the manufacturers had over 3,000 complaints.
After a three-year investigation, the U.S. government fined Hyundai and Kia $210 million for their failure in taking action on engine fires. No such penalties have been imposed in Canada, but the engine fires go on.
According to Transport Canada, the KSDS early warning system is currently under review, but a decision has not yet been made.
The driver left with a huge bill
Krystan Kapron's 2017 Hyundai Tucson caught fire on an Ontario highway in October and, as a result, she had no alarm system in place.
Despite her warranty still being valid, Hyundai declined to pay for the damages.
According to Kapron, their exact words were, "Their exact words were, 'Your warranty doesn't cover a vehicle if it's not survived,'" Their insurance covered much of the amount owed on the car, but she spent over $1,000 for the vehicle before she could purchase another one.
Kapron had pulled her 2017 Hyundai Tucson over on the highway when she heard a muffled ticking noise beneath her music. She could smell a burning odor, so she left the vehicle to make a phone call to her husband, but before she could, the car was totally engulfed in flames.
"I started crying and saying, 'Oh, my God, my car's on fire.' That's really the only words I could manage to say," reported Kapron.
Despite obtaining the KSDS recall on engine failure and fire risk, her 2017 Tucson had no recalls related to the engine as of the time of the fire.
The 2019 Tucson was affected by the ABS recall in September, but Kapron's 2017 model was not recalled until the end of December, two months after the crash.
Even though her car was just three years old, the warranty on her Kia Kapron was still valid, but Hyundai would not cover it.
I have heard similar stories from five other drivers who had their cars ignite after experiencing the same problem, and they had to work with insurance companies to get paid.
Class-action case would not include all the vehicles impacted by the problem.
Hyundai and Kia have both agreed to pay drivers in the class-action lawsuit that is pending in Ontario and Quebec a total of $100,000 each as a settlement. No admission of liability is involved, but extended warranties and possible depreciation compensation are offered in order to avoid future legal action.
The settlement only deals with some of the earlier engines, and so newer vehicles that were later introduced are exempt.
It is likely that Taylor will gain, but Kapron will not, as her 2017 Tucson has not been named.
In a public address, Levine mentioned that he wants to see the manufacturers' data exchanged widely and globally in order to ensure that government regulators and advocates do not have to rely solely on customer concerns, while Iny stressed the value of more government investment in faster Transport Canada investigations.
Informal paraphrase: Every Hyundai and Kia owner only needs the troublesome engines to be repaired.
there are cars for family members." How would you feel if there were children in the vehicle? said Kapron. "They need to take the safety standards of their vehicles very seriously."