2011 Hyundai Sonata SE – Click above for high-res image gallery

With the first units of its 2011 Sonata sedan having just begun hitting dealers, Hyundai is in the unfortunate position of having to issue a stop-sale on its most hotly anticipated new model in some time. According to Hyundai, an estimated 5,000 Sonatas may have a defective front door latch that could require replacement:
The [Sonata's] front doors incorporate a convenience feature that allows a locked door to be unlocked and opened by pulling the inside door release handle without first unlocking the door with the inside door lock switch. If a front inside door lock switch is held in the locked position while the inside door handle is pulled to open the door, the door latch may malfunction. If this occurs, the inside door handle will not return to its normal, stowed position and the door latch will remain in the unlatched position when attempting to close the door.
Because the two rear doors do not incorporate the automatic unlock pull-handle-to-open convenience feature, they are not affected by this issue, but both driver and passenger front door mechanisms could be in need of repair. Spokesperson Miles Johnson tells Autoblog that Hyundai will be working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall vehicles that are already in customer hands (roughly 1,300 units have been sold since the first examples hit dealerships over the past couple of weeks), and the company will begin shipping replacement latches to its 790 dealers tomorrow in order to fix both customer and dealer stock Sonatas as soon as possible. Once the new latches are installed (a process that Johnson says takes about an hour per vehicle), the stop-sale will be ended.

Johnson also acknowledged that Hyundai is keenly aware that the eyes of the media, public and Capitol Hill are on Toyota and NHTSA at this time, and the company hopes to effect a swift and complete fix for this door latch issue on a model range that is expected to remain the company's volume leader.

*UPDATE: Hyundai spokesman Miles Johnson informs Autoblog that the stop-sale has been lifted, as replacement parts have already started hitting dealers and the effected parts have begun being replaced. On average, each dealer has six or seven Sonatas in stock and dealers have been looking at the codes stamped on the latches to see if they need to be replaced. Dealers will not sell vehicles without the replacement parts installed, but because the repair only takes an hour, they are still able to correct the issue and get customers into a new car the same day.

The 1,300 units that were already sold prior to the stop-sale action will be subject to a NHTSA recall, but even prior to that official announcement, concerned owners are advised to bring their cars into dealers for a free inspection (and latch replacement if necessary).

Photos by Michael Harley / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

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