Kia Recalls 507,000 Cars Over Glitchy Airbags

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Following a March investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Kia Motors is recalling more than 507,000 vehicles in the United States to solve an electronic glitch that may prevent airbags from deploying in the event of a collision.

The NHTSA launched the probe after four people died in accidents involving Kia and Hyundai vehicles with airbags that failed to inflate. In total, the agency’s investigation noted failed deployments in the 2011 Hyundai Sonata and 2012-2013 Kia Forte in the U.S. There was also an incident involving the Forte in Canada.

Kia’s recall covers the 2010-2013 Kia Forte, 2011-2013 Kia Optima, and 2011-2012 Kia Optima and Sedona hybrid. While the company doesn’t presently have a fix, it suggests electronic control units may short circuit when overstressed, resulting in a glitch that prevents frontal airbags and seat belt pretensioners from operating effectively.

All in, the recall now affects 1.1 million U.S. vehicles affected by the issue. Hyundai issued a recall of 154,000 U.S. Sonatas in February after linking non-deployment reports to electrical overstress last February, followed by another 425,000 in April.

According to Reuters, the automaker says it is working with the supplier to find a solution to the problem as soon as possible. The NHTSA claims the airbag control module in question was produced by German parts supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG. Those units also appear to be behind a 2016 Fiat Chrysler recall that covered roughly 1.6 million cars. ZF issued a statement in March that it’s working with NHTSA to address the safety concerns surrounding its product.

[Image: Kia Motors]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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8 of 13 comments
  • Barryfaetheus Barryfaetheus on Jun 08, 2018

    We have a 2011 Sonata affected by this recall. Thing is it was announced in February, but they haven't mailed us any notification yet. They still don't have a remedy determined, despite initially saying this would take until April or May. Coincidentally, the airbag light just came on, but from google, that is most likely due to a faulty clockspring (a known issue which they have extended the warranty on). There is also a outstanding recall on mine for the seatbelt issue (which they recalled it a second time for). I'd like to take it in just once and get all this mess resolved. But if they don't announce the remedy for the airbag controller soon, I may need to go in multiple times. Very disappointed with this piece of junk.

    • See 1 previous
    • Strafer Strafer on Jun 09, 2018

      I went through the same things with my Honda Element. First the seat belt then the air bags (passenger side first, then driver side).

  • Redapple Redapple on Jun 08, 2018

    I dislike korean cars.

  • Quickson Quickson on Jun 08, 2018

    An airbag recall?! Clearly a sign of the inferiority of this particular brand, since you'd never see this in Toyota or FCA or GM or Honda or Ford! Oh, wait... But at least those other automakers have had it taken care of quickly. I mean, it's only been like 3 years of riding around in my wife's Fusion either worrying about shrapnel or turning off the passenger airbag altogether. I'm struggling to think of an automaker right now that hasn't had a massive airbag recall. Not that this is good. It sucks. But seriously, what's going on here? Is quality on the downslide or has the NHTSA stepped up?

    • See 1 previous
    • "scarey" "scarey" on Jun 09, 2018

      @volvoguyincanada Thanks for jinxing them- that's like saying that QANTAS hasn't had a crash yet.

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Jun 11, 2018

    Matt, can you get more detail than this? What about the Korte Koup? The SRS light came on in my daughter's 2012 Koup SX a few thousand miles back, and lately I'm trying to see if I can the code pulled, to see if it's the clockspring or the module. I still have her first one, a 2010 EX, that was totaled last year, but I can't use its clockspring, because it's a manual, and the 2012 is an auto with steering wheel paddles, and the module has a different part number, so I don't think I can interchange that either. I just ran the VIN on the NHTSA site, and it shows zero recalls.