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Former Kia Employee Reveals Car Fire Incidents Caused by Faulty Engine Recall

Posted on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019 at 3:51 pm    

Faulty Engine Recall

Photo via news5cleveland.com

A former Kia employee at the company’s corporate headquarters says he warned the automobile manufacturer in 2017 about faulty engine recall repairs that were to blame for car fires.

The former Kia employee, Jason Vaughn, spoke up in an I-Team Investigator interview about the issue. “I’m coming forward because people’s lives are at risk,” he said.

Vaughn worked at the warranty department in Kia Motors America in Irvine, California. He left left Kia in December claiming he was kicked out of his job for bringing up car fire concerns.

He said he was doing dealer audits when he found out that the engine recall wasn’t performed properly, leading to highly flammable fuel pump leaks.

When he alerted his superior during an operations meeting, he didn’t get the expected reaction. “She wasn’t receptive at all,” Vaughn said. “She didn’t think it was something that we should look at.”

Vehicle Fires Reported in Forty-Four States

A report from the Center for Auto Safety said that drivers in 44 states have reported vehicle fire incidents so far, citing over 200 Hyundai and Kia cars, including 25 drivers from Florida alone.

New York City’s U.S. Attorney’s Office has reportedly facilitated an investigation with regard to how Kia and Hyundai handled engine recalls. The two automobile companies have refused to comment on any federal investigations.

Days after the interview, Vaughn contacted his former employer with regard to his claim. That same day Hyundai announced a plan to recall over 150,000 SUVs and cars for fuel pump issues.

A fuel pump recall estimate from Kia would involve more than 50,000 Kia Optimas, 17,000 Kia Sorentos, and about 1,000 Kia Sportages. Hyundai on the other hand estimates about 10,000 vehicles.

Kia said that they’re not aware of any accidents or injuries regarding the issue despite the recall.

Center for Auto Safety Wanted Kia and Hyundai to Recall Their Vehicles

However, a watchdog group is already expanding the recall, suspecting more vehicles that aren’t on the list will pose a risk for fire incidents. The Center for Auto Safety announced last year that it wanted Kia and Hyundai to recall at least 3 million vehicles because of car fires.

The Center for Auto Safety executive director Jason Levine said that the two companies undertook the smallest step to respond to numerous complaints about vehicles bursting into flames in previous years.

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee called scheduled a hearing for November 14, but it was canceled after the CEO’s for Kia and Hyundai refused to attend and explain the cause of the reported fires.

Fuel Pump Leaks Found on Kia Cars

Two separate Kia owners from North Carolina and Louisiana shared videos showing fuel pumps spewing weeks after their engine recall replacements.

Vaughn said that he never seen a situation so dangerous in 25 years of working in the auto industry. “You’ve handed them the keys to a car that could potentially start on fire and burn to the ground within 10 to 15 seconds.”

Car on Fire at Pasco County

Chris McGuire-Wolfe, a mother from Pasco County said that her 2012 Kia Sorento burst into flames as she was driving down State Road 52 last month. She was thankful that her two sons weren’t in the car.

She showed ABC Action News her younger son’s seat melted into the back seat during the incident.

McGuire-Wolfe said she didn’t receive any engine recall notice from the manufacturer.  This means that a botched recall is not to blame for her burning vehicle, meaning there are other causes to the event.

Jason Vaughn Registers as a Federal Whistleblower

Vaughn has since registered as a federal whistleblower with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The Whistleblower Program was created by Congress to give monetary incentives for individuals who report violations of  Commodity Exchange Act laws.

Spokesperson for Kia Issued a Statement

A Kia spokesperson said that Vaughn resigned from the company on his own volition in December, stating that they “cannot comment on Mr. Vaughn’s departure, and it is our policy to never retaliate against any employee for bringing up safety concerns or employment matters. We take our policy against retaliation very seriously.”

Kia also noted the issues Vaughn brought up and his concerns have been brought to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They also said in a email that they are already looking into Vaughn’s claims regarding the vehicle fires.

As for Vaughn’s claims during that meeting, he said there were six other employees who knew about the problem when he brought up the vehicle fire concerns. The I-Team reached out those workers, including the manager who directed the I-Team to reach out to the company’s corporate communications. The other employees did not respond immediately for comment.

Vaughn’s Claims Sparked Reactions from Local Car Owners

A myriad of reactions have sparked since Vaughn came forward on. Taylor Price, a local Kia driver said, “The fact you would not take steps to seek that out immediately and people are at risk of losing their lives.”

Defective Products and the Law

There are thousands of defective products that pose huge risks for people using them and that frequently cause significant injury or death.   The attorneys at Williams Kherkher, have been handling product defect and product liability cases since 1983.   If you have been injured or a loved one killed by a defective automobile or product, call us for a free consultation.  We will advise you of your legal rights and help you get justice and compensation.

Call us today at (713) 230-2200 for a free consultation.

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