Now, Hyundai faces a total recall of its new Sonata

The Korean carmaker is halting sales of its top-selling vehicle in the US and South Korea owing to concerns about sticking door locks. However, this will not affect Hyundai’s India sales, say analysts.

First, it was Japan’s Toyota and Honda, then India’s Maruti, and now Korean chaebol Hyundai is facing a total recall of its recently launched ‘2011 Sonata sedan’ cars due to concerns about sticking door locks.

Acting on a handful of customer complaints, Hyundai Motor intends to carry out a voluntary recall of its new Sonatas produced in Korea and the US to replace some front-door latches, the company said in its official statement. 

However, this will not affect Indian sales of the vehicle, as it’s a different model. “This will not impact sales of Sonata in India, as the YF Sonata model being sold in the US and South Korea is a new one, while in India the Sonata Transform is sold,”  said Hyundai’s spokesperson Rajiv Mitra.

Automobile dealers and analysts also do not believe that the problems with the new Sonata model launched in the US will affect Hyundai’s sales in India, especially because of the low volume of Sonata car sales in the domestic market. “Sonata hardly contributes to the Indian volumes, as the Indian market is concentrated more on small vehicles, so sales will not be affected” an analyst from a brokerage said.

The Sonata is Hyundai's largest-selling vehicle, with global sales of 120,028 cars in 2009. The 2011 Sonata model went on sale only two weeks ago. There are currently only about 5,000 cars in the US inventory, and about 1,300 cars have been sold. In India, Hyundai sold 500 imported Sonata cars in 2009.
 
According to a report by Autoweek.com, Hyundai spokesman Miles Johnson was quoted stating that the problem involves a lock malfunction that occurs when front-seat passengers try to open their doors from the inside while depressing the lock button at the same time. When that happens, the interior door handles don't return to their original positions, trapping the passenger until the lock button is pressed again.

Mr Johnson also stated that Hyundai has become highly sensitive to product issues amidst a series of high-profile congressional hearings involving its Japanese competitor Toyota Motors.

Analysts in India believe that owing to these global issues, exporters are becoming more cautious about product quality. “They are themselves reviewing product quality and checking safety norms that apply in different markets,” the analyst said.

The recall will affect YF Sonatas produced in Korea until 6th December, which is around 46,000 units, and those produced at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing in Alabama (HMMA) and sold to customers until 16th February, which are nearly 1,300 units, the company said.

“Since the launch of the Sonata in Korea last September, Hyundai Motors discovered a mechanical problem with its front-door latches which, in very rare instances, will not close properly. To avoid a possible occurrence of the problem, Hyundai has been applying modified parts to some of its Korean and US production models,” the company said.
 
The company says that it will officially notify Korea's ministry of land, transport and maritime affairs in Korea and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US of the voluntary recall this week.
 
Johnson said Hyundai engineers were trying today to determine whether the malfunction even warranted notification to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which governs product recalls.

Consumers are happy with Hyundai’s decision to recall. Paul Landerman blogged on Autoweek

“That's awfully sweet of Hyundai, given the light at Toyota's dissatisfaction.” Another blogger said “Pretty sad when the Koreans can get it right. Maybe Toyota can learn from them”.

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