WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Senate committee asked the CEOs of two major automakers to appear before Congress to address the growing number of car fires involving Kia and Hyundai vehicles.
Members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee invited Kyung Soo “Kenny” Lee, President and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, and Seungkyu “Sean” Yoon, President and CEO of Kia Motors America, to testify before the committee about the safety of their vehicles.
Last week, the Center for Auto Safety reported 103 fire complaints were filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since June 12, an 85 percent increase. The fires in question are not related to collisions, according to Democratic committee member Sen. Bill Nelson.
“We’ve got to get to the bottom of what’s causing these fires,” Nelson said in a written statement. “Car owners need to know if their vehicles are safe.”
One Ohio man died in a non-collision vehicle fire after starting his mother’s 2014 Kia Soul.
As the I-Team reported in September , Keith Nash offered to pick up groceries for his mother in April 2017 so she didn’t have to get out of bed. Carol Nash said she had been feeling sick.
“I thought he already left until I heard that first explosion,” Nash told the I-Team. “And then I heard somebody holler, ‘Go out the window!’”
Nash ran outside to the parking lot of her Sharonville apartment to see her vehicle engulfed in flames. Keith was still inside and burned to death inside the car.
"I heard my son holler for help, and I tried everything I could to get him out of the car," she said.
His cause of death is listed as smoke and gas inhalation. According to a police report, an investigator said the burn pattern on the car suggested the fire started in the engine, and witnesses said they heard the engine revving before it exploded and caught fire. An autopsy revealed Keith had heroin and fentanyl in his system at the time of the explosion.
But investigators had to close the case in part because the fire burned so hot that they couldn’t determine exactly how it started.
So far Nash’s son is the only reported death from such fires.
The I-Team discovered 29 other drivers have filed complaints about the Soul, the same Kia model that caught fire with Keith Nash inside, for the years 2010-2015.
Those reports show some cars caught fire while the vehicles were moving – but others started while the cars were stopped, like in Nash’s case.
The results leave Carol Nash seeking closure.
“It aggravates me to no end that big companies don’t have to be held accountable for things to happen,” Nash said.
Committee leaders sent invitations to both CEOs Tuesday. They scheduled the hearing, “Vehicle Fires: Examining an Ongoing Safety Issue,” for Nov. 14. The CEOs must submit written testimony to the committee two days before the hearing.
Kia Motors America released a statement Thursday saying they share the Senate Commerce Committee's goal "to assure the safety of the vehicles we sell to our customers and which are driven on American roads."
The company said it would voluntarily cooperate with the committee and the NHTSA.
"KMA is also working cooperatively to provide NHTSA with data regarding the safety performance of all Kia vehicles, including concerns about vehicle fires, and is committed to providing this relevant information in a timely manner and to use this information to develop a data driven analysis of Kia vehicle safety," the company said in its statement.
Word of a hearing on the matter doesn't provide closure for the loss of Nash's son, but she said she's ready to testify if called.
"I told them I would go if I had to because I don't want what happened to me for another mother or father to go through, to watch their child die in front of their face," Nash said.
Meghan Wesley and Hillary Lake contributed to this report.