Consumer Reports Investigates Exploding Sunroofs

As the demand for panoramic sunroofs continues to grow, so do the news stories about spontaneous exploding sunroofs nationwide. Windshields are regulated, but there are no such regulations for increasingly larger sunroofs despite consumer complaints about shattering glass.

Consumer Reports (CR) recently examined the dangers posed by the incidents and what consumers should do if they find themselves victim to an exploding sunroof.

According to CR’s analysis of complaints listed in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) database, there have been at least 208 car models and 35 automotive brands listed in complaints to the federal government about exploding sunroofs since 1995. Of the 859 total complaints with the NHTSA, 71 percent of them occurred since 2011. Most of the incidents occurred during the car’s first two years.

Hyundai, Ford and Nissan were the top three automakers that consumers filed complaints against. The Scion tC, Hyundai Veloster and Kia Sorento were the top three models.

Of all the models mentioned in complaints, only the Kia Sorento is under investigation by the NHTSA. Kia has received at least 156 complaints about the Sorento sunroof. Only 43 reports of shattered sunroofs were reported to the NHTSA.

A sunroof explosion may not be likely, but the difference between 43 and 156 complaints shows that the incidents are more likely than some may think.

As a need for updated glass standards is becoming more evident, U.S. regulators are cooperating with the U.N.’s Working Group on Panoramic Sunroofs.

According to the article in CR by Jeff Plungis, research shows that laminated glass could reduce passenger ejections from large sunroofs. Ford is one automaker using laminated glass in some of its models’ sunroofs. Tempered glass is the norm across the market.

“[If sunroofs are] just breaking [on their own] it’s likely to be a manufacturing flaw. The larger the piece of glass, the smaller the margin of error,” Russ Corsi, a former PPG employee, told CR.

He suggested a hybrid version of tempered and laminated glass to prevent sunroof explosions.

Regulation of the materials is just one step in the right direction. Currently, many consumers who experience shattering sunroofs are denied warranty claims.

Consumers told CR that they had to get their sunroofs repaired under their insurance instead. Some consumers have sought remuneration through class-action lawsuits against individual automakers.

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