With Toyota Motor Corp. taking its lashings on Capitol Hill for failing to issue vehicle recalls quickly enough, Hyundai Motor America Inc. took no chances last week.
Hyundai issued a recall on its just-launched 2011 Sonata after it learned that front door-lock modules on some cars can stick under some circumstances.
Hyundai engineers spent part of Monday and Tuesday last week trying to see how many of the small population of 2011 Sonatas were affected by the problem.
The Sonata is Hyundai's highest-volume vehicle, with 2009 sales of 120,028 cars. The 2011 model went on sale only two weeks ago, and only about 5,000 cars are in U.S. inventory.
About 1,300 had been sold as the company debated what to do, Hyundai spokesman Miles Johnson said in Fountain Valley, Calif.
Tuesday morning, Feb. 23, the company told dealers to stop selling the car. It then prepared to ship repair parts to dealers, allowing them to resume sales.
But given the heightened public awareness of recalls, Hyundai concluded that afternoon that a recall was the best policy. The company said it planned to make consumers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration aware of the recall immediately.
"Anything to do with door latches warrants a recall," Johnson said.
He said the malfunction occurs only when front-seat passengers try to open their doors from the inside while simultaneously holding down the lock button. In that circumstance, the interior door handle will not return to its normal position, and passengers cannot fully close the door.
If they press the lock button again, the handle will correct itself and allow the door to function correctly.
Dealerships will replace the faulty mechanisms.