Connor Brogan was driving in the highway in his 2016 Kia Optima EX when his engine made an odd noise, the complaint for this class action alleges—and then the car stopped and the engine caught fire. The cause? According to the complaint, a connecting rod had detached from the crankshaft and made a hole in the engine block, allowing oil to escape and ignite when it hit hot surfaces in the engine bay. At the time, the complaint says, the car had been driven just over 22,000 miles.
The Nationwide Class for this action includes all persons in the US who are current or former owners or lessees of a Class Vehicle in the list below. Alternatively, the complaint proposes a New York Class.
Kia is one of South Korea’s leading motor vehicle manufacturers. Its largest shareholder is Hyundai, which owns 33.88% of its stock. The complaint claims that Hyundai makes Theta II engines, which both companies use in the vehicles at issue in this case:
The complaint claims that these engines have a defect that can restrict oil flow and prevent proper lubrication that can result in engine failure, and that Hyudai and Kia have concealed this defect and continued to sell vehicles with the affected engines.
Both companies advertise the advantages of the Theta II engine. For example, the complaint quotes Kia advertising as saying that it “helps a Kia deliver outstanding performance—in both power and fuel use.” According to the complaint, however, the Theta II engines operate at hotter temperatures and higher compression ratios which increase “the likelihood of fuel dilution and contamination of the engine oil…”
In September 2015, Hyundai issued a recall of 2011-2012 Sonatas with Theta II engines because of possible metal debris from factory operations in oil passages which could cause excessive wear, a noise, and possibly an engine stall while the vehicle was in motion.
In April 2017, Hyundai and Kia recalled 1.4 million more vehicles because of reports of engine failures and stalls. Included were 2013-2014 Hyundai Santa Fes, 2011-2014 Kia Optimas, 2011-2013 Kia Sportages, and 2012-2014 Kia Sorentos.
The complaint contends that Hyundai and Kia know about the defect, or should have known about it, because of their own testing, problems with the earlier vehicles, owner complaints, repair histories, and other factors. However, the company has not recalled all affected vehicles. The complaint claims that when the problem occurs, car owners are blamed for not properly maintaining engine oil or filters, and owners of cars that are out of warranty must pay up to $10,000 for repair or replacement of engines.
The complaint alleges violations of California and New York consumer protection laws, such as unfair competition, false advertising, and breach of warranty.