A class action lawsuit has been filed against Kia Motors America Inc. alleging that the automaker knowingly marketed cars with shatter-prone sunroofs then refused to pay to fix them. It’s claimed that Kia knew about the problem for years. The proposed nationwide class of consumers was filed in a California federal court. Plaintiffs in the suit allege that Kia joined a prevailing automotive trend of the past decade by replacing the standard metallic roofs in many of its consumer cars with “panoramic” sunroofs that, while “aesthetically pleasing,” are prone to shattering “suddenly and without warning.” The complaint said:
Replacing metal roofs with large plates of glass requires precision in the strengthening, attachment, and stabilization of the glass. Several manufacturers have failed to meet these demands, with three issuing safety recalls because their panoramic sunroofs spontaneously shatter … Several Kia models have the same problem.
Specifically, it’s alleged in the complaint that the 2011-2015 Kia Sorento, Optima and Sportage, as well as the 2014-2015 Soul and Cadenza, feature the faulty and potentially hazardous sunroofs. The sunroofs used in these Kia models are composed of tempered glass with a ceramic print area, which, the complaint alleges, impairs the glass’s strength. Because of the company’s desire to prevent the sunroofs from rattling free of their chassis, Kia attaches the sunroofs to their cars with such firmness as to prime them for shattering when submitted to the typical pressures and vibrations of a moving vehicle. The complaint alleges that both Kia and NHTSA have been aware of this issue for years. Kia initiated an internal investigation of the problem as early as 2012, which was then followed by an NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation inquiry into the same issue.
Kia declined to recall its vehicles with suspect sunroofs. However, Audi AG, Hyundai Motor America and Volkswagen AG each issued recall notices for similar products. Lead Plaintiff Noemi Caudillo and her husband purchased a 2014 Kia Cadenza in April 2015. The couple drove the vehicle for about two months before its sunroof imploded while Caudillo was driving it along a Texas highway. When the vehicle was taken to a Kia dealership for repairs, Caudillo was informed that the damages must have resulted from the impact of a foreign object and not from any defect inherent to the car.
Plaintiffs in the suit, which demands relief for both national and Texas classes of consumers, allege that Kia has engaged in fraudulent business practices, unjust enrichment and negligence, and violated the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act. It will be interesting to see how this case develops. We will continue to monitor it.
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