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US to probe thousands of fires in Hyundai, Kia vehicles

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WASHINGTON: The top US auto safety regulator said on Monday that it will open an investigation into three million Hyundai and Kia vehicles after reviewing reports of more than 3,000 fires that injured over 100 people.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said the investigation is in response to a petition seeking a probe filed in June by the Centre for Auto Safety.

The investigation covers the 2011-2014 Kia Optima and Sorento and the 2010-2015 Kia Soul, along with the 2011-2014 Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe.

The probe rekindles safety concerns about vehicles of the South Korean duo, who have already been investigated by the US regulator and prosecutors over engine-related recalls.

Hyundai and Kia together have recalled over 2.3 million vehicles since 2015 to address various engine fire risks.

Hyundai Motor shares fell as much as 2.5 per cent in morning trade in Seoul, while Kia Motors fell 1.1 per cent.

Hyundai said in a statement it was cooperating and added it has been in "frequent, open and transparent dialogue regarding non-collision engine fires".

Kia said it will continue to work with NHTSA and "openly shares information and data with NHTSA on all matters pertaining to vehicle safety".

The agency said that while prior Kia and Hyundai vehicle recalls covered by the probe were primarily about engine fires, the new probe "is not limited to engine components and may cover additional vehicle systems or components".

Mr Jason Levine, executive director of the Centre for Auto Safety, said it was "long past time for the full power of the federal government to be brought to bear to answer why so many thousands of Kia and Hyundai vehicles have been involved in non-crash fires." - REUTERS