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Suits Allege Kia Sephias Sold With Defective Brakes

March 08, 2001|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Irvine-based Kia Motors America Inc. has been sued by a trio of Pennsylvania law firms alleging that defective front brake systems on the company's 1998-2000 Sephia sedans caused premature wear resulting in expensive repairs.

The suits in Pennsylvania and New Jersey each were filed on behalf of individual Sephia owners but seek class-action status to cover owners of all 204,415 Sephias sold in the U.S. in the three model years.

While not alleging safety issues, the consumer law firms of Kimmel & Silverman, Francis & Mailman and Donovan Miller claim in the suits that Kia knew of the brake problem and had issued technical service bulletins to Kia mechanics covering similar problems on 1996 and 1997 models.

A Web site created by one of the firms says the two plaintiffs each have voiced concern about the safety of their Kia vehicles.

In a statement Wednesday, Kia, a unit of Hyundai Motor Co. of South Korea, said that Sephia brakes "have always been safe and continue to be so now."

While the company is aware of as many as 300 consumer complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about brake noise, vibration and premature wear, it said, NHTSA has never instituted a safety recall. The complaints "raise consumer satisfaction concerns and not safety issues," Kia said.

The company's statement said Kia officials are confident that the courts will reject the bid to expand the suits into a nationwide class action.

The Sephia has been Kia's best-selling vehicle in the U.S., with 302,514 sold since 1993.

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