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US Senate pumps brakes on Hyundai, Kia engine fire hearing

It could be rescheduled for a later date, or it might just never happen.


Originally scheduled to take place on Nov. 14, a key meeting between a US Senate committee and sister Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia has been put on hold.

The Senate Commerce Committee meeting about engine fires in Hyundai and Kia vehicles has been postponed, Reuters reports, citing confirmation from the Commerce Committee chair's spokesperson. That spokesperson also told Reuters that discussion of a future date for the hearing is still ongoing.

Here's how the whole thing started. In 2015, Hyundai recalled 470,000 vehicles because manufacturing debris might cause problems in some engines, internally named Theta II. After that recall, a whistleblower flew from South Korea to Washington to tell the government that Hyundai (and its sister company Kia) did not recall nearly enough vehicles. Hyundai subsequently expanded its recall, and Kia entered the fray with a recall of its own.


Hyundai and Kia have already recalled over 1 million vehicles, but more could be on the way.


This delayed recall expansion caught the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which launched an investigation last May over concerns that the recalls could have been issued in a more timely manner. Subsequent reports quoted NHTSA as saying that fire reports sent to the watchdog Center for Auto Safety could be related to the engine failures in Kia's recall.

This past October, the Center for Auto Safety renewed its efforts to get Kia and Hyundai to recall more vehicles, because it keeps receiving reports of engine fires in vehicles with Theta II engines. That could very well be the impetus that caused the Senate Commerce Committee to invite Hyundai and Kia executives to the now-delayed hearing.

For what it's worth, both automakers were more than willing to participate. Kia and Hyundai both signaled that they would voluntarily cooperate with both the Committee and NHTSA's ongoing investigation. Kia told Reuters in an additional statement that it has consulted with a former head of NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation to make sure the company is doing everything it can to solve problems in an acceptable timeframe.

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