WASHINGTON, Nov 20 (Reuters) – U.S. auto safety regulators on Monday said they had opened a probe into 16 separate recalls issued by Hyundai (005380.KS) and Kia (000270.KS) covering 6.4 million vehicles relating to brake fluid leaks that could result in fires.
The affiliated Korean automakers have issued a string of recalls since 2016 for antilock braking system (ABS) and Hydraulic Electronic Control Units (HECU) issues manufactured by the same parts supplier.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was opening an audit query to evaluate the timeliness of Hyundai and Kia’s defect decision making “and adherence with reporting requirements; and understand the varying defect descriptions and remedies between these recalls.”
Hyundai said it was “fully cooperating with NHTSA and “puts the safety of our customers and employees as the top priority in everything we do.” Kia said it “will work closely and in cooperation with NHTSA” during its review.
The Korean automakers in September recalled a combined 3.37 million vehicles in the United States due to the risk of engine fires, telling owners to park outside and away from structures until repairs are complete.
The automakers said internal brake fluid leaks can cause an electrical short that could lead to a fire.
Hyundai in September said it has reports of 21 fires and 21 other thermal incidents since 2017, while Kia has reports of at least 10 confirmed fires and melting incidents.
Kia said the HECU in the vehicles may experience an electrical short as a result of brake fluid leaks. Hyundai said the ABS module may leak brake fluid internally and cause an electrical short.
The U.S. units of Hyundai and Kia in November 2020 agreed to a record $210 million civil penalty after NHTSA said they failed to recall 1.6 million vehicles for engine issues in a timely fashion and inaccurately reported some information.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Louise Heavens and Mark Porter
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