Thursday

Hundai Getting Too Big for its Britches?

There just isn't anything quite like a "maybe recall" where the manufacturer will fix some cars, but not the ones that it has already sold, but that's what Hyundai is trying to get away with now. They win. You get stuck. Sound familiar?

Hyundai has announced a recall to fix a bad seat belt design in the 2011 Hundai Sonata and 2012 Hyundai Sonata vehicle line. But there's a catch.

The center rear seat belt mechanism design violates federal safety standards and 13,095 of the vehicles have been sold and delivered to drivers - leaving only about 1,633 still in dealer inventory or unsold. Hyundai has told the federal government's safety investigators that it only wants to fix those 1,633 vehicles. Worse than that, they don't even want to tell the other 13,095 owners about the problem.

So, what do you do? We'll get to that in a minute. First, here's the recall notice, hot off the federal government's press release -

HYUNDAI / SONATA     2011-2012
Manufacturer: HYUNDAI-KIA AMERICA TECHNICAL CENTER INC Mfr's Report Date: MAR 08, 2012
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 12V098000 NHTSA Action Number: N/A
Component: SEAT BELTS:REAR
Potential Number of Units Affected: 14,728
Summary:
 CERTAIN MODEL YEAR HYUNDAI SONATA HYBRID VEHICLES PRODUCED BEGINNING ON DECEMBER 2, 2010, AND SHIPPED TO DEALERS THROUGH MARCH 7, 2012, THAT ARE EQUIPPED WITH A CENTER REAR SEAT BELT INCORPORATING A RELEASE MECHANISM THAT DETACHES BOTH THE LAP AND SHOULDER PORTION AT THE LOWER ANCHORAGE POINT, FAIL TO CONFORM TO FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARD NO. 208, "OCCUPANT CRASH PROTECTION."
Consequence:
 SEE NOTES.
Remedy:
 Hyundai dealers are replacing the center rear seat belts in Sonata hybrid vehicles currently in dealer inventory with center rear seat belts that are not detachable from the lower anchorage point prior to delivery to customers.
Notes:
 HYUNDAI DEALERS ARE REPLACING THE CENTER REAR SEAT BELTS IN APPROXIMATELY 1,633 SONATA HYBRID VEHICLES CURRENTLY IN DEALER INVENTORY WITH CENTER REAR SEAT BELTS THAT ARE NOT DETACHABLE FROM THE LOWER ANCHORAGE POINT PRIOR TO DELIVERY TO CUSTOMERS. FOR THE APPROXIMATELY 13,095 VEHICLES THAT HAVE BEEN DELIVERED TO CUSTOMERS, HYUNDAI MOTOR COMPANY INTENDS TO FILE A PETITION FOR AN EXEMPTION FROM THE RECALL REQUIREMENTS OF THE NATIONAL TRAFFIC AND MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY ACT ON THE BASIS THAT THE NONCOMPLIANCE DESCRIBED IS INCONSEQUENTIAL AS IT RELATES TO MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY. THEREFORE, THE MANUFACTURER IS NOT OBLIGATED TO CONDUCT AN OWNER NOTIFICATION AND REMEDY CAMPAIGN
Now, what do you do if you are one of the 13,095 owns of the Sonata vehicles that Hyundai does not want to fix and has said it won't fix? Two things.

First, go to your local Hyundai dealer and ask them to fix it. If they say no? Complain. Loudly. Ask to talk to the supervisor. Then ask to speak to the owner. Still won't work?

And second? Call Hyundai at 1.800.633.5151. Busy signal? Call them on their regular phone line at 714.965.3000. No help? Fax them an angry letter at 1.714.965.3861.

Still getting nowhere? Write them a nasty letter about how they don't seem to care about violating federal law and send it to Hyundai Motor America, P.O. Box 20850, Fountain Valley, CA 92728.

Are they responding yet? Then send them a strongly worded email to consumeraffairs@hmausa.com.

Hyundai likes to say that they "stood face-to-face with each and every automotive assumption out there and challenged them all" - well apparently that includes the one about following federal safety laws and building cars safely and fixing ALL of them when something is wrong. Instead, Hyundai appears to say "we'll fix what we want to fix - and you can't make us do anything else."

Are you mad enough yet? Send your letter to Hyundai Motor Company, 231 Yangjae-Dong, Seocho-Gu, Seoul 137-938, South Korea. Or, if you are really mad, call them at +82-2-3464-1114. Don't speak Korean?

Then fax your letter to Hyundai in Korea at 714.965.3148.

Would you rather complain direct to the guy in charge? Address your letter to Chung Mong-Koo, Chairman.

The second in command? Chung Eui-Sun, Vice Chairman.

Motor vehicle manufacturers should not get to choose what cars they will fix and what ones they won't fix - especially when they all have the same problem. Oh, you can also complain direct to the federal safety investigators at NHTSA. They make it easy - just click here and follow the instructions online.

And if they won't? Well, when you've got a bad car, you need a good Lemon Law lawyer. Click on the link below and find one near you.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers get rid of bad cars for more than 30 years.