WASHINGTON -- Hyundai Motor Co. is recalling 129,000 U.S. vehicles for an engine issue that can increase the risk of a fire, U.S. regulators said Friday.
The recall covers some 2015-2016 Veloster, 2012 Santa Fe, 2011-2013 Sonata Hybrid, and 2016 Sonata Hybrid vehicles because connecting rod bearings inside the engine may wear prematurely, which over time can result in engine damage. Dealers will conduct inspections and if bearing damage is found, the engine will be replaced, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.
Hyundai said all recalled vehicles will also receive an enhanced engine control software update containing a new Knock Sensor Detection System that monitors engine vibrations for unusual patterns potentially indicating an abnormal condition with the engine, such as a damaged connecting rod bearing.
Last week, Hyundai and Kia Motors' U.S. units agreed to a record $210 million civil penalty after U.S. auto safety regulators said they failed to recall 1.6 million vehicles for engine issues in a timely fashion.
NHTSA said the two affiliated Korean automakers agreed to consent orders after it said they had inaccurately reported some information to the agency regarding the recalls.
Hyundai agreed to a total civil penalty of $140 million, including an upfront payment of $54 million, an obligation to spend $40 million on safety performance measures, and an additional $46 million deferred penalty if it does not meet requirements.
The settlement covered recalls in 2015 and 2017 for manufacturing issues that could lead to bearing wear and engine failure.
A top U.S. auto safety advocate blasted Hyundai for how it handled the problem.
“When consumers are telling their car company and their government their cars are catching on fire, it should not require a third-party watchdog to force life-saving action, but that’s exactly what happened here,” Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said in a statement. “Far too many Hyundai owners had their horror stories dismissed as freak occurrences or anomalous. Today’s recall demonstrates that where there’s smoke there’s fire.”
He added: “We have been tracking fire and engine related recalls from Hyundai and Kia from the time we called for recalls and federal investigations. Since 2015, there have been 33 such recalls involving at least 20 different models and over 5 million vehicles, covering model years 2006-2021.
“Based on this history and the fact that the current recall only covers those vehicles which have experienced above average rates of hole-in-block engine fires, despite other Hyundai vehicles having the exact same engines, we think that this recall is not the end of this story.”