Man Says His Hyundai Caught Fire With Daughters Inside

Jason Tellefsen said he was driving his daughters home from school when he saw smoke coming from his car.

"I had the girls in the backseat and all of a sudden the whole car just shut off," he said.  

Tellefsen said he pulled over on the side of the road. That’s when he realized his 2012 Hyundai Sonata was on fire.

He pulled his girls out of the car as fast as he could.

"My girls were hysterical," he said. "They were terrified. They had no clue what was going on. They just saw the car on fire."

At first glance, he thought it was a freak accident

But after coming across our stories on non-collision Kia fires, he had more questions and concerns.

"That’s pretty much the exact same thing that happened to us," Tellefsen said.

Consumer watchdog Center for Auto Safety found similar reports lodged with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that suggest it is happening with other Hyundais and Kias.

Both Hyundai and Kia, which are both owned by the Hyundai Motor Group, previously recalled more than 1 million cars for an engine defect. But there were no fire hazards or warnings mentioned in that previous recall.

In June, NHTSA agreed to step up its current oversight of those recalls and review more than 400 complaints of Kia and Hyundai fires that occurred without collisions.

The Center for Auto Safety said that's not far enough: alleging Kias and Hyundais outside of the recall are catching fire, too, many unrelated to the recalled engine defect.

They are now calling for a separate investigation.

“What they should be doing is opening a new investigation into why Kias and Hyundais are catching fire,” said Jason Levine with the Center for Auto Safety.

The Center isn’t optimistic NHTSA will do anything. They point to a recent internal audit of NHTSA - that says it is failing to monitor recalls, saying it does not ensure that remedies are reported completely and in a timely manner.

“NHTSA's failing at making sure recalls are happening as quickly as they need to, as effectively as they need to, and as often as they need to,” Levine said.

The car makers say no recall is needed right now.

In a statement to our sister station in Chicago, Kia said: “...No cause of recent fires has been determined to be the result of a defect...”

Hyundai said that if it and NHTSA "...Find that additional remedies are warranted...we will take action.."

As for Tellefsen's, Hyundai said his vehicle is at the dealership and will be inspected this week.

Hyundai said it diligently monitors for vehicle fires and upon learning of an incident, it takes immediate action.

It’s little comfort for drivers like Tellefse, who feel they barely escaped.

But he feels fortunate that he and his girls made it out alive.

NHTSA confirmed that it’s looking into certain makes and models of Kias and Hyundais that total 1.6 million vehicles.

NHTSA said it prioritizes any complaint involving a vehicle fire, and the agency will not hesitate to use its oversight authorities to ensure vehicle safety.

As for Tellefsen's car, he said his insurance is covering it as a total loss.

We’ll let you know about Hyundai’s inspection results as soon as we get them.

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