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Class Calls Kia Soul|Cars ‘Gas Bombs’

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Kia Motors sells cars with dangerously defective gas tanks that led to the deaths of at least three passengers, a Kia driver claims in a federal class action.

Lead plaintiff Constance Sims claims Kia Soul models have "defective and dangerous" gas tanks. She claims the gas tanks are neither reinforced with straps under the vehicle nor shielded with sheet metal, creating risks of injury or death should the gas tank explode during a collision.

"The first priority of a car manufacturer should be to deliver a safe car, particularly a car with a safe gas tank," the complaint states. "A corollary of this rule is that a car manufacturer must take all reasonable steps to protect the gas tank from being dislodged and ruptured in an accident and to ensure that a gas tank fire does not immediately invade the passenger cabin."

Gas tanks on the Kias are directly beneath the rear passenger seats, Sims says, close to the rear axle.

"However, the gas tank in the defective vehicles is unshielded, and the gas tank is bolted to the vehicle underbody instead of being strapped," the lawsuit states. "Failure to use straps, as most auto manufacturers do, increases the risk that the gas tank will shift or dislodge and ignite in a major collision."

Adding to the risk, Sims claims, are that unlike most cars, fuel pump service covers on Kias are made of plastic instead of metal and placed under the rear seat cushion.

"This location, coupled with the use of a plastic instead of a metal fuel pump service cover, increases the likelihood that in a major collision, fire will penetrate the rear cabin through the plastic service cover like a 'blow torch,'" the complaint states.

Sims claims that "passengers sitting in the rear seats in defective vehicles are sitting atop veritable gas bombs that, in a major collision, have the propensity to explode and immediately engulf rear occupants in flames. There has been at least one accident in which this nightmare scenario resulted, killing three passengers traveling in a defective Soul in Texas."

Kia calls its models safe and "world class" in its ads.

"A brochure/advertisement for the 2013 Soul proclaims that the Kia Soul is a '2012 Top Safety Pick Insurance Institute for Highway Safety' and that this award provided added 'peace of mind,'" the complaint states.

Sims claims that Kia knew its vehicles were dangerous when it made those statements.

She seeks class certification and wants Kia ordered to fix the defective gas tanks or provide the class with safe cars. She also seeks restitution and damages consumer law violations, unfair competition, false advertising, breach of implied warranty, and fraudulent concealment.

She is represented by Elaine Byszewski with Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro of Pasadena.

Kia did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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