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Hyundai halts 2011 Sonata sales because of door glitch

Tue, 23 Feb 2010

Hyundai Motor America today ordered a halt to sales of the 2011 Sonata after notifying dealers that front door-lock modules on some cars can stick under some circumstances.

With intense scrutiny bearing down on rival Toyota Motor Corp., Hyundai hopes to quickly and quietly resolve the product glitch on the recently released 2011 Sonata sedan.

The Sonata is Hyundai's biggest-volume vehicle, with 2009 sales of 120,028 cars. The 2011 model went on sale only two weeks ago. There are currently only about 5,000 cars in U.S. inventory, and about 1,300 have been sold, Hyundai spokesman Miles Johnson said in Fountain Valley, Calif.

It is unclear how many of those have the faulty locks or how Hyundai will notify owners to bring in the cars for inspection.

Johnson said the malfunction occurs only in situations where front-seat passengers try to open their doors from the inside while simultaneously holding down the lock button. In that circumstance, the interior door handle will not return to its normal position, and the door won't shut. If they press the lock button again, the handle will correct itself and allow the door to open.

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.

He acknowledged that there is heightened sensitivity to product issues at the moment because of the headlines and congressional hearings surrounding Toyota's recall of millions of vehicles over safety concerns since late last year.

The Sonata repair will consist of replacing the front door-lock mechanism. Johnson said the replacement parts will begin reaching dealerships tomorrow, and the stop-sale will be lifted as soon as repairs are made.

By Lindsay Chappell- Automotive News