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The Hyundai Kona EV will no longer be sold on the South Korean market. This decision came after domestic sales dropped dramatically following a controversial battery-related recall. South Korean Kona drivers have made it clear; They don’t think Hyundai handled the situation well.

White Hyundai Kona EV SUV charging in a dark garage. The charging plug is lit in green.
Hyundai Kona EV charging | Brendon Thorne via Getty Images

Battery fires and other issues prompt massive recall of the Hyundai Kona EV

Hyundai’s issues with the Kona EV began in March 2019. Three electric Kona SUVs had ignited and caused serious structure fires. All of the vehicles in question were parked with fully charged batteries when the fires started. More than a dozen reported fires prompted the automaker to investigate. The threat of fire was deemed credible and electrical deficiencies with the car’s battery system were suspect.

In March 2020, Hyundai launched an international campaign to upgrade Kona’s software in the hope of detecting potential battery issues. The software update included a power-limiting failsafe, and a battery short-circuit warning light. No fewer than 7 new fires were reported about the Kona EV between April and October of the same year.

A formal recall was not issued until October 2020. The first wave of the recall affected 11,000 units. 75, 680 units would eventually be recalled the following February. The risk was so great that Hyundai urged drivers not to park affected vehicles near any structure due to fire risk. The investigation has yet to yield a root cause of the fires.

Sluggish sales suggest shaken confidence

Hyundai Kona EV | Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Kona EV sales dropped by more than 40% in South Korea. The drop came amid criticism of how Hyundai has handled the situation from the beginning. Many owners feel the interim repairs offered by Hyundai are insufficient. A software update does little to instill confidence when the potential outcome is deadly.

The mysterious source of the malfunction leaves buyers uneasy. It’s unclear if the issue is with Hyundai’s technology or the LG Chem battery cells in the EV. Both companies entered the voluntary recalls together. The unsuccessful investigation coupled with a slow response and inadequate countermeasures broke down buyer confidence in the hybrid SUV

The Hyundai Kona EV is pulled from its home market

Hyundai Kona badge | Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hyundai decided to cease all domestic sales of the Hyundai Kona EV. The company has no plans to stop the export of the SUV. It will still be available for sale in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Hyundai offered little insight into what motivated this decision. From the outside, it’s a smart business move.

Yonhap News reports that Hyundai plans to shift its domestic market efforts to the upcoming Ioniq 5. Hyundai received more than 40,000 preorders for this all-electric SUV. The Ioniq 5 is slated to be released in early 2022. The South Korean market seems ready to move on from the Kona.

Hyundai Kona EV owners who think their vehicle may be affected should call Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460 and reference recall number 196. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline also has more information. The NHTSA Safety Hotline can be contacted at 1-888-327-4236. Reference recall number 20V630000. A VIN search with the manufacturer or NHTSA will determine if a vehicle falls under the recall.


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