2011-2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Recalled For Seat Belt Flaw; Hyundai Balks

March 16, 2012

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced a recall of 2011 and 2012 models of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. But this recall is a little different from the ones we typically post, because Hyundai is petitioning the NHTSA to cancel it -- or rather, to amend the recall so that Hyundai dealers won't have to tinker with 13,095 vehicles unnecessarily.

The recall stems from an issue with the Sonata Hybrid's rear center seat belt (which was also a problem in yesterday's recall of the Subaru Forester). In Hyundai's case, however, the problem is that the center rear belt uses "a release mechanism that detaches both the lap and shoulder portion at the lower anchorage point", which doesn't comply with U.S. safety regulations.

The problem affects 14,728 Sonata Hybrids built between December 2, 2010 and March 7, 2012. Hyundai dealers were notified of the recall on March 8 and immediately stopped selling the vehicles.

For the 1,633 Sonata Hybrids still in showrooms, Hyundai has agreed to have its dealers replace the center safety belts.

However, Hyundai is less eager to repair the 13,095 Sonata Hybrids that have already driven off the lots. And so, Hyundai is filing a petition with the NHTSA to exempt it from fixing those vehicles, claiming that the safety belt issue is "inconsequential".

Once Hyundai's petition has been filed, the NHTSA will review it, and if the petition is denied, Hyundai will begin notifying owners of the recall. We'll keep you updated on this situation as it progresses.

In the meantime, if you own one of the Sonata Hybrids involved in this potential recall, we suggest you sign up for the NHTSA's recall notification system. Simply visit the "Vehicle Owners" section of the NHTSA website, enter the make and model of your vehicle(s), and confirm your email address. You'll receive updates on any recall related to your ride(s) directly in your inbox.

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