Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. plan recalls to inspect and, if necessary, replace four-cylinder engine assemblies in as many as 1.2 million U.S. vehicles, the South Korean companies said Friday.
Manufacturing errors in Hyundai's 2.0- and 2.4-liter "Theta" four-cylinder engines, which both companies use in their vehicles, could cause engine bearings to wear prematurely and lead to an engine stall, according to recall notices posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website Friday.
"Hyundai will stand behind the cars and we're going out of our way to make sure our customers are happy," said Hyundai Motor America spokesman Miles Johnson.
Dealers will inspect and replace the engines if necessary, he said. Johnson said no crashes related to the problem had been reported, and characterized the recall as a customer satisfaction effort.
In a statement, Kia Motors America said it was unaware of any injuries or accidents tied to the issue. The company also said its dealers will inspect vehicles for signs of the problem, and replace the engine sub-assembly if necessary. Hyundai owns 33.9 percent of Kia Motors Corp.
Neither company would estimate the potential cost of the recall.
The problem can lead to a knocking noise and loss of power, and could cause the check-engine and engine oil pressure lights to illuminate, Johnson said.
It's unlikely that every engine will be replaced. Owners of about 10 percent to 20 percent of the Hyundai Sonata midsize sedans and Santa Fe Sport crossovers covered by the recall have reported stalls, Johnson said.
"The field data hit a level that caused us to initiate this action to ensure the quality of our vehicles and the satisfaction of our customers," Johnson said.
The U.S. recall covers about 572,000 Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe Sport vehicles from the 2013-14 model years made at Hyundai's plant in Montgomery, Ala. About 618,000 Kias are affected, including Optima midsize sedans from model years 2011-14, Sorento crossovers from 2012-14, and Sportage crossovers from 2011-13. All of the affected vehicles are equipped with the four-cylinder "Theta" engine.
Another 171,000 vehicles in South Korea are affected by the issue, that country's transport ministry said Friday.