Wednesday, 5 February 2014

More on the 2013 Hyundai Sonata fire. The burnt out car offers an intact engine for serious analysis of the car's computer.

The engine of the burnt out 2013 Hyundai Sonata is intact. 
An opportunity for some real analysis about how and why the fire occurred.

What Hyundai should do about their spontaneous car fires.

by Tom Thorne

I received the following email from Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. after I asked them what they normally do after a spontaneous fire breaks out in one of their cars:

“Hyundai Auto Canada appreciates the opportunity to respond. The company certainly understands how an experience as described in your article can be one of great concern to customers. This is a serious matter and Hyundai Auto Canada is committed to a full and proper investigation of the vehicle and will communicate directly with the customer as information becomes available”.  Hyundai Auto Canada Corp.

I still ask one main question to account for about 32 percent of car fires that are spontaneous.  What  precisely do the manufacturers of these cars do with the burnt out hulks? Do they take them to their laboratory to try to find out why these fires occur for no apparent reason? We now know that in the case of the fire I reported on 25 January 2014 that Hyundai had the car examined on 28 January 2014 and the report of that work is now pending.

It remains to be seen if this report done by Hyundai offers any explanation or guide to what happened. When a car ignites after a collision that is something that we can understand. Although even that kind of fire should be made less likely by engineering and thinking through better car design that defeats fires under any circumstance. 

When the fire starts for no apparent reason while the car is simply parked, warming up or driving, then that is simply a reason that needs intense research about the systems that run contemporary cars. In the comments at the end of the this story I have such a case. This is especially needed in low milage new cars that fail this badly. If a car is old, then a fault of this kind could perhaps happen due to aging components and wear and tear.

These new car fires also suggests wiring and its connections to onboard computers needs a rethink. This Hyundai Sonata car enables that work to be done because the engine compartment did not burn as the photograph with this story show clearly. Check this reference about the complexity of contemporary car microprocessors:

The software and hardware it controls runs the systems in a contemporary car is much more complicated than ever before. It it fails then the systems shut down. If the systems shut down then windows and doors fail and cannot be opened which is the case in this fire for the back passenger doors. Despite an intact and unburned engine, control of the car failed completely.

And why are cars finished with plastics and fabrics that burn easily when exposed to overheated wires? And why are those wires close to anything that can ignite? Why can’t fire retardant plastics and fabrics be better developed? Why does the software when it closes down, allow systems to continue working and malfunction to the point that wires or electrical connections can be allowed to overheat?

1,743,112 Cars  and light vehicles were sold in Canada in 2013 an increase of four percent over 2012. Hyundai’s share of this market was 137,100 units and increase of .6 percent over 2012. They sell cars in almost the same volumes as Toyota and Honda, and enjoy almost half the sales of Chrysler, General Motors and Ford. 
If you add Hyundai’s other car company Kia with sales of 72,449 units in 2013 together they control almost 13 percent of the Canadian light motor vehicle market. These figures are from Derosiers automotive reports and they show Hyundai-Kia to be a significant player in the Canadian car business.

Both Hyundai and Kia have lost a tiny bit of Canadian market share from 2012 into 2013. Hyundai is down .2 percent and Kia .4 percent. Sales for the entire car industry has grown four percent from 2012 into 2013. However Suh Sung-moon an analyst at Korea Investments and Securities is quoted in the Financial Times observed “Hyundai is keen to prevent the quality issues from expanding further because the impact on sales will be much larger, if similar problems are found in its new models”

So a significant player in Canadian car sales needs to show that when they have a problem of spontaneous fires they have policies and procedures that transparently demonstrate to the car buying public that they are working to fix these problems. In short they cannot keep these cases quiet and how they respond is a test of just how “keen” they really are to make things right.

Hyundai-Kia has just settled a class action suit over false claims for their gas milage. The total North American settlement is $400 million of which the Canadian share of this settlement is $46.65 million Cdn. This problem pales against teen one of these spontaneous fires.

To shore up their reputation because of recalls and quality issues Hyundai Motors has lost three executives in its research and development division including its head manager Kwon Moon-sik after their embarrassing fuel efficiency debacle. Whose head will roll over this kind of shabby engineering, sourcing and manufacture associated with spontaneous fires?

So many companies try the silence routines or the nice word public relations but without any tangible substance probably fearing litigation. Public relations is not silence it is publicly owning up to your problems and fixing them in public. If you choose to offer products to the public then you must do what is right when you have problems such as these spontaneous fires.

The truth is you will get litigation no matter what you do so it can only be bearer to own up to faults and deal with them publicly. The litigation and class action suits side of these problems can be lessoned by good public and media relations. A settlement with silence by both parties means that if the car company that makes the settlement  is obviously at fault.

There is a strong argument for a newer type of public relations and media relations by companies. That style is not silence but admission that there was and remains a problem which Hyundai intends to solve, fix and make good not only for this car but for all the cars they sell now and in the future. That is their test in the case of these spontaneous fires.

The fire gutted interior of the 2013 Hyundai Sonata with the intact engine.
Surely the intact car computer can shed light on this problem?

© Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All rights waved.  Please credit


  1. Hyundai Sonata and Elantra Fires

    18,000 Miles The contact owns a 2013 Hyundai Sonata. The contact stated that the vehicle ignited into flames while parked and unoccupied. The fire department extinguished the fire. An independent investigator stated the fire originated in the engine compartment. The vehicle was completely destroyed and towed to an authorized dealer. The manufacturer was notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 18,000.
    Phoenix, AZ, USA, 24 August 2013

    Australia: Elantra Premium 13,049 Miles
    You would think that Hyundai would take just a tiny little bit of interest when my car, 18 months old, sitting in my driveway and not used for several hours, catches fire. But no, they have tried their best to ignore it. Investigations indicated a mechanical/electrical fault. I had reported a fault at the last service with the auto ignition. It was being too auto and trying to engage the starter even when not required. On the day of the fire you could hear the starter engaging the motor as the fire brigade put out the fire. Hyundai of course say there is no issue unless I can prove that it was a mechanical/electrical fault. Not to worry, you can't take on big car makers or expect them to look after you in such situations was my lesson. Otherwise a very nice car - ( if you buy, just buy a fire extinguisher, the auto ignition really is what it ignites)
    Hodster, Melbourne, VIC, Australia 31 August 2013

    How Stuff Works Web Site: Topic: car computers
    This reference provides some ideas about the complexity of contemporary cars and the microprocessor systems that control them. This reference states that most cars now have up to 50 microprocessors running throughout the vehicle for various functions

  2. Hyundai Tiên Phong ra mắt xe Xe Hyundai Sonata 2.0AT 2015 hoàn toàn mới. Giá bán Hyundai Sonata 2.0AT 2015 ưu đãi, đủ màu sắc và giao xe ngay khi khách hàng có nhu cầu.