When consumers hop into their new vehicles for the first time, they expect them to work properly and get them from point A to B without problems. But the 2011-2013 Kia Sorento didn’t meet those expectations when some of their sunroofs exploded, showering glass onto drivers and passengers.
After several years, an investigation into what went wrong with these Kia vehicles is finally closed. Here’s what we know about this strange phenomenon.
The Kia Sorento exploding sunroof investigation began in 2013
In October 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Admission (NHTSA) opened an investigation into 2011-2013 Kia Sorento models after receiving 123 reports of exploding sunroofs, CarComplaints reported. During this time, owners filed 101 warranty and goodwill claims. And 14 owners reported minor injuries from cuts and scrapes, usually from cleaning up glass shards after explosions. Many drivers also described the explosion as sounding like a gunshot or other loud bang.
Kia reportedly performed its own investigation into exploding Sorento sunroofs but came up empty-handed. The automaker even went so far as to say the only way for the sunroofs to explode would be if an object had hit them hard enough to shatter them. But the NHTSA dismissed those claims and deemed the trend concerning enough to warrant a thorough probe. The investigation analyzed over 65,000 Sorentos, Autoblog reported.
According to CarComplaints, the 2011-2013 Sorento wasn’t the only Kia model to experience sunroof explosions. A few Optima owners also reported their sunroofs had seemingly spontaneously shattered. The 2012 Hyundai Veloster also saw a recall for sunroof problems due to a few reports of shattering or explosions. The incidents alluded to a potentially larger, more widespread safety issue involving sunroofs.
The Kia Sorento probe lasted 7 years
At the long investigation’s outset, the NHTSA collected safety data from the 2011-2013 Kia Sorento, as well as the Optima and Sportage. The federal agency also gathered information about shattering sunroofs from several other vehicle manufacturers, such as Ford, Hyundai, and Nissan. By the end of the probe, researchers had collected data from 97 models representing over 10 million vehicles spanning 11 model years.
That high volume of data was deemed enough to help the National Highway Traffic Safety Admission to come to some conclusions about exploding windshields in the Kia Sorento, and to feel confident enough to close the probe 7 years after it began.
The investigation’s findings
The National Highway Traffic Safety Admission completed and closed its 2011-2013 Kia Sorento probe in January 2021. Interestingly, the investigation didn’t find sufficient evidence to link all of the explosions to safety defects. Of the 10 million vehicles investigated in the study, 4,000 experienced an exploding sunroof. Oddly enough, the Kia Sorento wasn’t even the vehicle with the most sunroof explosions. But it was near the top of the list.
Fortunately, the NHTSA’s thorough investigation found that no car accidents had occurred because of exploding sunroofs in 2011-2013 Kia Sorento models. That’s remarkable, considering many reports indicated the sudden, loud explosions occurred only when the vehicle was in motion. It’s a minor miracle that no drivers swerved into traffic or caused other accidents when the explosions occurred.
In the end, the NHTSA’s seven-year probe couldn’t provide a clear-cut reason why so many sunroof explosions occurred in 2011-2013 Kia Sorento models. But at least we know that nobody was severely injured or killed because of this strange irregularity.