Dem senator questions NHTSA on vehicle fires

Dem senator questions NHTSA on vehicle fires
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Senate Dems rip Trump after Putin news conference MORE (D-Fla.) on Wednesday questioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for information about vehicles that caught fire in recent years.

“Spontaneous fires are serious safety hazards and should not be taken lightly,” Nelson wrote in a letter to NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King.

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“We have to find out what is causing these fires and what can be done to prevent them.  Owners need to know if their vehicles are safe. As a result, NHTSA must quickly identify and adequately address any serious safety issues.”

Nelson, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, referenced several reports about Kia and Hyundai vehicles catching fire, including a Kia Sorento that caught fire last month, an incident that was reported by WCJB-TV.

The senator wrote multiple questions to King, who President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE has chosen to serve as the agency’s top administrator. King has not yet been confirmed to that role.

Nelson asked NHTSA if it has started a “safety defect investigation” into the vehicle fires and requested staff correspondence related to the matter. He also asked the agency if it has spoken to the auto manufacturers about the incidents and requested any correspondence with the companies and communications about complaints filed in the last five years.

The letter from Nelson comes one day after the Center for Auto Safety asked the agency to probe fires of Kia and Hyundai vehicles made between 2011 and 2014.

“Unfortunately, most, if not all, auto manufacturers occasionally produce vehicles that catch fire, even when not involved in a collision,” the auto watchdog’s executive director, Jason Levine, said in a statement

“However, when these Kia and Hyundai vehicles are compared to other similar vehicles that were manufactured at the same time, there is enough of a statistical disparity to suggest a systemic issue that NHTSA must investigate and seek a repair remedy as soon as possible.” 

Nelson in the letter asked NHTSA to answer his questions and deliver the relevant materials by July 3.