Hyundai is recalling more than 1,600 model-year 2011 and 2012 Sonata Hybrid sedans in dealership inventory due to a backseat center seat belt, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The recall could affect about 13,000 more vehicles pending a NHTSA decision.
The affected vehicles were manufactured starting on Dec. 2, 2010, and shipped to dealers through March 7, 2012. The seat belts in question are acceptable for use in non-hybrid Sonatas where the center seat folds flat. They're detachable to allow for the seat movement to gain access to the trunk. But NHTSA regulations don't allow this feature if the rear seat is fixed, as is the case with the hybrid version of the sedan.
Hyundai will install a fixed belt on the 1,633 Sonata Hybrid sedans that are still in dealer inventory. For the remaining 13,095 affected vehicles that have already been sold, the automaker filed a petition of exemption "on the basis that the noncompliance described is inconsequential as it relates to motor vehicle safety," according to NHTSA. This means that Hyundai wouldn't have to fix the issue in cars already sold if NHTSA allows the petition.
If the petition is denied, Hyundai will notify owners and dealers will replace the affected seat belt free of charge. Owners can call NHTSA's vehicle safety hotline at 888-327-4236 for more info.