The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration has upgraded its investigation into 2011-2013 Kia Sorentos for possible “sunroof implosion” by opening an “engineering analysis.” The NHTSA Office of Defect Investigation (ODI) has now received 26 complaints on sunroof breakage, up from 15 previously reported when the initial investigation was opened in October 2013.
“The majority of these claims occurred while the vehicle was in motion,” according to a document on the NHTSA site. “Glass shattering while driving may distract the driver, and the resulting glass particles which enter the passenger compartment may injure occupants.”
Of the 26 reports of sunroof breakage, 24 occurred while the vehicle was in motion, according to NHTSA. The investigation covers 65,347 vehicles.
“There were also four injury incident reports for minor cuts/scratches,” ODI investigator Emily Reichard wrote in the NHSTA document.
“Kia submitted a total of 123 field incidents related to sunroof breakage in response to ODI’s information request. Of this number, ODI identified 78 unique vehicle identification numbers (VINs), with nine matching ODI complaint vehicles. Sixty of the submitted reports occurred while the vehicle was in motion. Fourteen of the submitted reports alleged minor cuts/scratches from falling glass. Kia also submitted a total of 101 warranty and goodwill claims for sunroof replacement, of which 86 unique VINs were identified,” Reichard wrote in the report.
Based on field inspections, Kia officials identified one potential cause for the breakage—external impacts from rocks or other foreign objects while the vehicle was in motion.
“Kia’s inspection results were inconclusive as to the cause for the breakage,” according to the NHTSA document. “Kia advises that the Sorento sunroofs also have a greater surface area than many other vehicles, potentially making them more susceptible to road debris strikes. While ODI recognizes that the Sorento may be more at risk due to its larger impact area, the rate of ODI reported incidents is concerning. Thus, the investigation has been upgraded to further analyze the scope, frequency and consequences of these failures.”
“Kia Motors America (KMA) is aware that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has upgraded its evaluation of the 2011-2013 Kia Sorento panoramic sunroof to a preliminary evaluation (PE) to an engineering analysis (EA),” according to a Kia statement emailed by James Hope, national manager of product communications. “KMA places a priority on vehicle safety and has been evaluating the performance of the sunroof as part of ongoing vehicle monitoring activities conducted as a standard practice on all Kia models. KMA initiated discussions with NHTSA on this issue before the PE was opened and is continuing to cooperate with NHTSA in its investigation.
“To date, only debris and hail have been identified as the cause of sunroof breakage in product investigations, supporting the conclusion that the sunroof is appropriately designed and suffers from no defect trend. KMA will continue to thoroughly investigate and research this issue and will continue to share its findings with NHTSA,” the statement added.
Kia officials did not identify which company manufactured the sunroof.