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Used car dealerships across the Tampa Bay area are selling vehicles under recall for fire risks

Posted at 7:00 AM, Nov 04, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. — Used car dealerships across the Tampa Bay area are selling vehicles under recall for fire risks, an I-Team investigation found.

I-Team Investigator Jackie Callaway spent just a few hours visiting local lots, from Lakeland to St. Petersburg, and uncovered a dozen used Kia and Hyundai vehicles for sale – despite being flagged as fire risks by the automakers.

Nearly 200 Kia and Hyundai vehicles currently under recall for engine fire hazards were listed for sale on used car lots across the Tampa Bay area over just a two-week period starting September 30, according to a CARFAX database obtained by the I-Team.

Kia vehicle

The I-Team first exposed faulty engine recall work is suspected of causing fires in thousands of Kia and Hyundai vehicles nationwide. An ABC Action News interview with a Kia whistleblower led the automakers to recall 700,000 vehicles in early 2019.

UP IN FLAMES | The latest on the Kia/Hyundai fires investigation

Dariawn Bell of St. Petersburg bought her 2012 Kia Soul used in 2018 and said she had no idea it was under recall until it caught fire in October 2019.

“My scariest part was trying to figure out how long I had to get out of the car,” said Bell.

RELATED: Former Kia worker blows whistle on car fires and repairs: “People’s lives are at risk”

Bell, who was relieved her two foster children who were not in the car that day, said the brakes wouldn’t work after her car caught fire and she was forced to pull the emergency brake and jumped out before the vehicle became fully engulfed.

The I-Team checked and uncovered Kia issued a recall on her vehicle for engine fire risk in February 2019, but Bell said she was never notified.

A spokesperson for Kia Motors America told the I-Team it mailed Bell a recall notice April 12, 2019, but the letter was returned as “undeliverable.”

The automaker also said it makes “reasonable and good-faith efforts” to contact owners impacted by recalls.

I-TEAM INVESTIGATIONS | The latest investigations from our I-Team

Automakers must mail recall notices to car owners within 60 days, but the I-Team uncovered federal regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration don’t investigate whether automakers follow those rules unless someone makes a complaint.

Emilie Voss of CARFAX, a service that supplies vehicle history reports, said it is often up to consumers to check for recalls before buying a car.

“See what the vehicle’s history is,” said Voss. “See if there is an open recall on that vehicle – possibly one that could put you and your family in danger.”

According to CARFAX, one in six used vehicles for sale across the country need recall work.

RELATED: Kia, Hyundai agree to settle U.S. class action lawsuits over engine fires for more than $760 million

Experts recommend car buyers check the VIN number of vehicles for open recalls before making any purchases.

VIN recall checks can be done on the automaker’s website, or

Full statement from Kia Motors America:

Kia Motors America (KMA) makes reasonable and good-faith efforts to contact all owners of vehicles subject to recalls in a timely manner. KMA notifies customers through the United States Postal Service and uses information sourced from state registration databases to complete the initial mailing.

When mail is returned as undeliverable it is recorded by KMA and the reason the post office provided for the document being undeliverable is noted. In this case, the recall notice was returned as not deliverable as addressed. KMA does not maintain the actual undeliverable document.

Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact KMA’s Consumer Assistance Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia).