Hyundai, Kia recall 168,000 vehicles at risk of fires

By  | 

(CBS) - Despite a government shutdown, Hyundai and Kia are moving ahead with a recall of about 168,000 vehicles to fix a fuel pipe problem that can cause engine fires. The problem stems from improper repairs during previous recalls for engine failures.

The affiliated Korean automakers have been dogged by fire and engine failure complaints from across the nation. They're both under investigation by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been trying to figure out whether initial recalls covered enough vehicles. But the agency is mostly closed due to the shutdown.

In addition to the recall, each automaker said it will do a "product improvement campaign" covering a total of 3.7 million vehicles to install software that will alert drivers of possible engine failures and send the cars into a reduced-speed "limp" mode if problems are detected.

NHTSA employees who do safety investigations and recall notifications are not at work. Under normal circumstances, the agency would review the recalls to make sure they're adequate and post details on the agency website. It also would monitor notices to customers and make sure they could check to see if their vehicles are included.

Kia spokesman James Bell said the company is proceeding with the recall and campaign regardless of government delays.

"Making our customers comfortable is vastly more important than making sure we're following additional government processes right now," he said. Kia sent letters to dealers around Jan. 10 notifying them of the recall, he said.

But a U.S. auto safety advocate called the recalls inadequate and said the product improvement campaigns should instead be recalls that are overseen by NHTSA.

A NHTSA spokeswoman said she could not comment due to the shutdown.