TEMECULA (CBS8) - A Marine wife was driving southbound on Interstate 15 in Fallbrook last week Monday, with her one-year-old baby in the back seat, when the sunroof of her brand new 2013 Kia Sorento suddenly exploded. She says an internet search shows this isn't the first time this has happened to Kia Sorento drivers, but that Kia of Temecula won't be repairing the damage for free.
Krystal Miller told News 8, it was 8:45 am and there was light traffic. As she passed the Rainbow Valley Blvd exit, she started to feel a lot of pressure in her ears.
She said, "I was trying to pop them and the next thing I hear what sounded like a gunshot-- literally sounded like a shotgun or something went off inside the car... a couple seconds later, I'm covered in glass."
Krystal said, a metal rod from the sunroof then came crashing down on her chest, "and I whipped the wheel, and I almost flipped my car over, because I was going 75 mph in middle lane on cruise control. It was really traumatizing. I'm just really thankful that my daughter wasn't killed, or me, and that I was able to gain control of my car after the pole hit me."
Krystal pulled over onto the shoulder of the interstate, worried about her one-year-old daughter in the backseat, who was covered in glass but fortunately uninjured. Krystal was bleeding from cuts to her neck and arm, and her chest had red welts from the impact of the rod. Shaken, but okay, the Certified Nursing Assistant continued to work, where she and her boss took pictures of her sunroof, which appeared to show no dents or damage.
She said, "We took pictures, trying to look at car and find out what happened. There were no dents, no reason... It was completely unexplainable. I didn't own the car 3 weeks and this happened."
When Krystal did an internet search-- she learned other owners of Kia Sorentos have survived the same scare, with stories that are eerily similar. Krystal said, "I've found several similar, almost identical cases to mine. One person owned it six weeks-- it was the exact same claim, driving down the road, no cars around, and the sunroof just exploded."
In an online forum, one driver posted in September 2012: "My sunroof literally exploded a few days ago on my brand new 2013 Kia Sorento. It sounded like a gunshot blast and the interior (including me) was completely covered in glass. I've had this car for less than 2 months and there was nothing unusual about driving conditions that day. This has to be a manufacturing defect in some way, waiting on Kia to confirm coverage under warranty."
In another online forum, a different driver wrote, "I had this happen to me in April 2011 on my 2011 Kia Sorento," adding that the dealership covered the repairs, but one year later, the sunroof exploded again.
Krystal took her SUV back to Kia of Temecula, where she purchased the vehicle less than four weeks earlier for more than $33,000. Nine days after she dropped off the vehicle, Krystal said, "They call me and tell me it's not going to be covered by warranty.. that I have several points of impact that could have caused the damage to get the sunroof to shatter."
Krystal says she has never heard anything hit her vehicle in the short time she's owned it, and that it's kept in the garage when not driven.
Krystal said her boss was in disbelief when he heard Kia was refusing to fix the damage for free. She said, "My boss came again [to the dealership] to look at it, and told the service guy, 'I looked at this car right after it happened and there was not a dent there.'"
Krystal is also thankful that her employer has been so understanding. She says she is often two hours late, because she has to wait for her husband to come home from work so she can use the car. He works as a Marine helicopter mechanic at Camp Pendleton. The couple just bought a home, and don't have the estimated $7,000-$9,000 the dealership says the repairs could cost.
"On top of that," Krystal said, "my payments are $540 a month for a car I can't drive, nor do I ever want to drive again."
After reading stories from other Kia Sorento owners, Krystal is worried her sunroof could explode again without warning. Krystal also wants other drivers of the Kia Sorento to be aware this could also happen to them.
Kia Motors America issued this statement to News 8: Kia Motors America (KMA) places a priority on safety and takes reported customer concerns seriously. Warranty claims involving damage to any Kia vehicle glass are reviewed on a case-by-case basis as varying influences, such as damage from road debris and other factors beyond Kia's control, may be excluded from Kia's comprehensive new-vehicle warranty coverage. Based on physical inspections of the customer's vehicle, KMA determined that damage existed to the sunroof which was consistent with a significant impact from an external object hitting the area around and on the sunroof. Such impact damage is thus not covered by the terms of the Kia warranty on the vehicle. If a vehicle is determined to have failed to function properly during normal use, and is within the new-car warranty period, KMA provides for parts and/or repair(s) at no cost to the customer. Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact KMA's Consumer Assistance Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia).