Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Hyundai claims car fire in 2010 found no technical fault of the vehicle could account for the incident.

A fire gutted 2010 Hyundai Elantra. Hyundai could find no technical cause 
for this fire according to their letter reproduced below.

More on the 2013 Hyundai Sonata fire. No comment yet from Hyundai Canada. Will they step up to the plate?

by Tom Thorne

It’s been several days and I have tried since last Friday to contact Hyundai Canada for a statement concerning the burnt out Sonata. The first email I sent to them received an automatic response reply which means I know they got it. 

Today I sent another email saying that my follow up story would be incomplete without a comment from Hyundai Canada or from their parent company in Korea. It’s my test to see how good they are dealing with difficult situations. So tomorrow who knows.

Silence seems to be the way many large corporations deal with problems such as this because they know that they could be held liable. The fact is they are liable and their  silence cannot change that. There is an obvious manufacturing negligence in this situation. No one can doubt that it happened. A senior manager at Hyundai should at least say they they are concerned and sorry.

Their warranties have nothing to do with catastrophic destruction of one of their cars by a spontaneous fire. This is not a warranty matter because it is a complete failure of their product after only 26,000 kilometres of driving. Any warranty is nullified by a burnt out hulk sitting in the snow in the wrecking company yard.  There is no fault on the part of the driver only in the manufacturing, sourcing and engineering of this product can be blamed.

The real question is how can any manufacturer of any product that fails at this catastrophic level say nothing? No amount of silence is going to correct it. No amount of shame however nicely expressed can fix this problem. At best any response is an apology knowing that despite an apology they remain clearly liable and accountable for a failed and very dangerous product. The only way to fix it is to ensure that it stops and never happens again. 

Initial compensation should be the entire insured amount paid by the customer for the car. Any losses such as an insurance deductible, loss of personal or school board property should be paid. A set of winter tires for the replacement vehicle in this case should be recovered. All of this would be a nice start. A kind of contrition that indicates concern for the customer’s well being.

And why not? Hyundai is liable for a giant manufacturing problem that could kill people and they need to correct their sourcing, engineering and how they assemble the car in the factory. In the meantime they need to get real and put their customers first despite any torts for negligence and class actions that may arise. That is a start of being accountable.

Below is the text of a letter provided to an owner of a Hyundai Elantra in 2011 destroyed by a fire. Carolyn (she has no last name apparently) representing the National Customer Connect office of Hyundai Motor America says “they can find no technical fault with the vehicle that accounts for the incident.” 

Surely a burnt out car can qualify as a “technical fault” by any standard.  The rest of this letter speaks for itself. The recipients of this letter refused the offer. That means litigation is needed to get Hyundai to step up to the accountability plate.

© Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All rights waved for a reblog.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

2013 Hyundai Sonata destroyed by a fire that started in the passenger compartment. Who is accountable?

Fire gutted interior of 2013 Hyundai Sonata. A catastrophic fire 
by any standard. Will Hyundai be accountable?

2013 Hyundai Sonata burns at the roadside. 

by Tom Thorne, Belleville, Ontario, 25 January 2013

On Monday 20 January 2013 my oldest daughter was driving her 2013 Hyundai Sonata from the school where she teaches to pick up her three teenage children at their high school.

Suddenly the car dashboard began to light up. The car began to show signs of shutting down the power train so she pulled over to the side of the road. Nothing worked and her four way flashers would not come on.  Almost instantly smoke began to billow from the back seat. She got out of the driver’s side grabbing her purse from the front passenger seat.

She attempted to open the back doors to retrieve her computer and school student records. The doors would not open. She backed away from the car as it was engulfed in flames. Someone called 911 and the police and fire department from Quinte West were soon on site retarding the fire. The car could not be saved it is a total loss.

At this time it is not known what caused the fire but it is clear that it started in the back seat after a general systems failure.  One thing is certain the fire did not start in the engine. The engine is completely intact as I saw yesterday when I visited the wreckers in Belleville where the car is stored until insurance officials and fire forensic people examine it.

The wrecker company manager told me at the site that they are seeing more and more wiring that is “too thin” leading to seat heaters and other systems. Another employee offered that he knows of other Hyundai cars that have self ignited but not brought to their lot. A quick search of the internet confirms that Hyundai cars have ignited elsewhere. Some of these instances are listed below.

The fact is this one did ignite for no good reason is a cause for alarm. The insurance company is initially offering a replacement value which means that the victim of this situation does not get the full purchase price back. This car had only 26,000 km. so it is worth less from insurance book values. That means the victim bites the financing or price paid difference after only a year of driving.

 American Fire Administration facts from a report covering 2008-2010 indicate one in seven fires responded to are in cars, 86 percent of those fires are in passenger vehicles. Many of these fires (32 percent) are described as “unintentional”.  Sixty one percent of these fires are in the engine compartment. Forty four percent of fires are started by “mechanical failures”. Twenty eight percent of car fires are caused by insulation problems around wires and 18 percent of fires are caused by flammable liquids.

The average dollar loss per car fire to the victim after insurance is about $5,000 adjusting for market values. Per thousand car fires 2.3 percent result in fatalities usually because the fire is a result of a car crash. In this specific Hyundai Sonata case the fire resulted in no deaths or physical  injury but its psychological effects can be deeper especially when the back doors would not open. My daughter keeps thinking about her children caught in the backseat. 

The American government figures on these fires show clearly that passenger cars are less safe than transport vehicles. Sixty nine percent of vehicle fires are in passenger cars, 16 percent in other passenger vehicles such as light trucks. Non commercial fires on the road account for 86 percent of the fires reported versus seven percent for transport vehicles. Naturally there are more cars than transports but the fire safety of these cars on the road is still 32 percent of fires not caused by a crash.

The remedy for these “unintentional” car fires seems to indicate a tort court action if the drivers of these lemons are to make an impact on the car building industry. There is no excuse for a system failure where wires overheat create a fire and destroy a new car. Clearly there is negligence here in the engineering, sourcing and quality control when these cars are built. That negligence is clearly the responsibility and accountability of the car manufacturers and even those who wilfully offer and sell them to the public.

Please comment on this story with your own car fire experiences at this email or below: thorne.ejournal.tom@gmail.com

The engine was not burned only the interior of this 2013 Hyundai Sonata.
What could cause such a fire?  

Some examples of similar experiences from a simple Google search “Hyundai Sonata fires”:

1. Rocco Feb 2013: As a fire investigator, I have just examined 2 car fires in a week due to electrical failure...2012 sonata-2013 sonata. Coincidence? I think not. Someone in the auto industry needs to look into this.

2. MICHELLE Jan 18, 2014 9:03:16 AM
I had fire 2012 hyundia sonata -- burned on side of hwy -- electrical problem??

3.Another Hyundai Sonata taxi catches fire on expressway - 08May2012 youTube

4. Hyundai Sonata GLS: My 2011 Hyundai Sonata caught fire on my
Resolved Question:
My 2011 Hyundai Sonata caught fire on my way to work this morning. Now it is a total loss. I had an oil change 1 week ago. What do you think may have happened?

5.The vehicle was a 2011 Hyundai Sonata. The VIN of the car is 5NPEC4AC7B_. Upon pulling out from a stop sign the engine stalled, after coasting to a stop and placing in park I tried to restart engine. All lights went off and motor did not turn. Attempted again, same thing then passenger compartment filled with smoke. Fire dept arrived and determined somewhere in dash a component had fried. They then disconnected battery. Vehicle was towed to dealer, per dealer engine locked up and they have to disassemble dash to determine what had fried. This issue happened on Tuesday, September 6, 2011.

6. The car is a 2009 Hyundai Sonata. Vehicle identification number (VIN) of the vehicle is 5NPET46C89_. I started my car and as I started to turn the steering wheel so I could pull out of the parking space smoke spewed from my dashboard. I looked up under the dash and noticed the wiring harness in flames. I extinguished the fire. I then had the car towed to a Hyundai dealer. They examined the damage and said tat it would cost me $4000 to repair it as I needed a new wiring harness. Hyundai claims it wasn't a manufacturers defect, even though the car was purchased brand new and therehas been no alterations or modifications, the same wiring harness is used in kia which has a recall on a wiring harness. I am in possession of the burnt harness and it clearly has kia written on it. This problem occurred on Oct. 1, 2010.

7. On my way home my 2011 Hyundai Sonata caught fire under the
Customer Question: On my way home my 2011 Hyundai Sonata caught fire under the hood. I just had starter replaced 3 days earlier. Received paper stating all is good with my car. What could have caused this fire?

8. wemakeitsafer.com › Recalled Products › Vehicle Recalls › Hyundai
Find recall information for Hyundai Sonata Recall and other recalled cars, trucks ... year 2012-2013 Hyundai Sonata passenger cars, manufactured from January 24, ..... IN THE PRESENCE OF AN IGNITION SOURCE MAY RESULT IN A FIRE.

9. Hyundai Sonata Engine - 2013 HYUNDAI SONATA Problems With ...

10. 2011 Hyundai Sonata Electrical System Complaints
www.aboutautomobile.com › Complaints › 2011 › Hyundai › Sonata
Provides Information about 2011 Hyundai Sonata Electrical System Complaints ... On 10/29/2013, 10/30/2013 and 11/01/2013 it began do do the exact same thing. ..... 40 minute with my family inside the vehicle, the left front side caught on fire.

11. My new hyundai sonata 2013 purchased in nov was parked in my ...
My new hyundai sonata 2013 purchased in nov was parked in my friends driveway for over 4 hours and spontaneously the engine caught fire. It was not arson it ...

© Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All rights waved for republishing or a reblog.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Volumes of rail shipped crude oil are increasing. How can safety be assured when railways often pass through downtowns? Answer: They can't.

Lac-Megantic Quebec: The mother of all railway derailment fires.

Railways passing through urban areas routinely carry noxious hazardous flammable goods each day. Can the rail infrastructure and rolling stock be properly maintained for these increased volumes? Are the trains properly manned to ensure safety?

by Tom Thorne

When the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) connected Canada and its vast territory in the late 19th Century they didn’t carry hazardous goods of much consequence. Perhaps the worst thing they transported was wagon axel grease, coal oil and barrels of tar.

Now trains regularly carry noxious crude oil, naphtha and a host of other industrial chemicals most of which can ignite in a derailment to cause large fires and ecological damage. The trouble is they carry these hazardous products through many urban areas that have expanded since the railway was originally built.

In the case of my town, Belleville, Ontario, Canada, the CPR still follows a course from when this railway offered a now defunct passenger service. In the early days it also served some factories downtown. We now have an industrial park on the top of the city that is served by the Canadian National Railway and has access to the major Highway 401 that spans the Province. However the CPR railway still dips down to roll right through the centre of town paralleling the Bay of Quinte where we draw our drinking water.

In addition, on its way down through town it is less than 100 meters at most from the back of our General Hospital. If we had a fire the size of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, near our hospital it would be rendered unusable and all the patients would have to be removed and housed elsewhere unless they were consumed by the flames. Also we would have no hospital medical service for the duration of such a disaster should it occur. 

My house in the west end of Belleville and is about 300 meters from the CPR track.That’s close enough that if we had a Lac-Megantic size fire for me to abandon my home for safety after helping hopefully to pull patients out of the long term care home at my corner. They are 150 meters from the CPR track.

Fortunately I could retreat to one of the three homes of my daughters. I have an acquaintance whose old wooden house downtown is 30 meters from the CPR track. The tracks at his location heave and sway each time a freight train goes through the city. Our downtown could be on fire very easily and our waterways polluted into the bargain because of the bridge that crosses the Moira River at that point.

A few years ago we had a derailment just east of Belleville that took a week to correct. Some of the oil leached into the ground but fortunately did not ignite. During that period the CPR routed its goods traffic through town using the Canadian National Railways (CNR) lines which also run through town but more safely through a larger rail yard. A derailment at this site would be more manageable but it also runs through town to the west and east with double track after leaving the rail yard.

Then this week we had another fiery derailment in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick and a few weeks ago we had another one at Casselton, North Dakota which also burst into flame and forced the evacuation of 2300 people.  Earlier on a stretch of track 86 km from Edmonton, Alberta 100 people were evacuated after a CNR derailment.

It is surely not rocket science to figure out that more and more flammable products are being shipped by rail to keep up with the demand mostly for oil that comes from the Canadian and the American west. The problem is our rail infrastructure and the nature of the rail car designs are prone to accidents of catastrophic proportions as the fiery death of 47 people shows in Lac-Megantic.

Canadian winters play havoc with our aging rail systems. The extreme cold this winter can affect the performance of the rail cars, switches and tracks.  As we have seen with the spate of accidents last year and the beginning of 2014, the system is clearly not safe enough. No amount of clever public and media relations or nice words from railway executives and government politicians can make this problem go away.

Since last May we have had ten serious derailments in Canada that are documented. Many other small problems go unreported especially by media. Every CPR goods train that passes through my town each day carries the potential for devastation. Some believe that the solution lies in pipelines. Pipelines in our area are aging like our rail system and the one that passes north of Belleville crossing watersheds. They are  destined for more volume to send crude oil to Montreal for refining. 

And can we expect that the Obama government is going to allow Canadian pipelines to enter the US in the near future? The answer is that the Congressional agenda in the United States has placed these pipelines from Canada on the political back burner. The Harper government wants to send our Alberta crude through pipelines to the BC coast and to Montreal. However in the meantime it will roll past our doors in increasing numbers of trains over track that needs attention and in cars that are single hulled and prone to ripping open in a derailment.

Each time I hear the train horns passing through my town I say a prayer first to remember the dead of Lac-Megantic and secondly to preserve us from a catastrophe at the end of my street.

© 2014 Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.