Panoramic sunroofs have been increasing in popularity since first appearing on American vehicles in the mid-2000s. As of 2011, more than 33% of new vehicles sold or made available in the U.S. featured a sunroof, a number the Wall Street Journal cites as a fourfold jump from 1990. Auto makers hoping to capture market share of drivers after that bright, spacious feeling are increasing the size and surface area of their panoramic sunroofs, and transforming them from luxury upgrade to economy upgrade, or even a standard feature. But the rise of panoramic sunroofs has also precipitated a rise in consumer complaints about the safety issues they pose – namely, a reduction in vehicle rollover strength, and the danger of spontaneously shattering glass.
Kia exploding sunroofs prompt nearly 200 driver complaints
Nearly 200 Kia drivers have filed reports with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration indicating their sunroofs exploded at random, often when the vehicles were traveling at highway speeds. In a report to the NHTSA, Kia indicated that exploding sunroofs were responsible for 18 reported injuries to drivers and passengers.
Volkswagen, Hyundai recall cars with shattering sunroofs
According to the Wall Street Journal, Volkswagen recently recalled more than 13,000 of its 2012 Audi Q5 crossovers because the vehicles’ panoramic sunroofs may be susceptible to spontaneous breakage in cold temperatures. Edmunds reports that a recall was also issued on 13,500 Hyundai Velosters equipped with panoramic sunroofs that may break while the vehicle is in motion. Drivers have experienced random sunroof glass explosions in the Volvo S40, Honda Accord, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-9, and Chrysler 300M, www.carcomplaints.com reports. Ford’s multi-panel vista roof, Audi’s dual-pane open sky roof system, Mercedes Benz’s magic sky control, and GM Cadillac’s ultra-view panoramic roof may also be susceptible to spontaneous breakage. What’s the issue?
Why do sunroofs explode?
Vehicle manufacturers, glass suppliers, and engineers have proposed different theories as to why panoramic sunroofs are spontaneously shattering on some drivers. As with the case of Volkswagen’s recall, extreme temperatures may be to blame. Engineers interviewed by www.carcomplaints.com indicate imperfections in the glass itself, occurring either before or after manufacture, may cause the sunroofs to shatter. Additionally, as a car’s body bends and flexes, it may exert pressure on the sunroof, to the point of explosion. After conducting their own investigations, auto makers have taken the position that a number of incidences of exploding sunroofs may be attributable to rocks, stones, or other debris coming into contact with the sunroof itself, either while stationary or in motion.
Engineer: ‘not a chance in the world’ that a rock would break a sunroof panel
UC Berkeley engineer Tarek Zohdi calls this theory into question. ABC 7 News in the San Francisco Bay Area spoke with Mr. Zohdi, “who calculated a rock lofted into the air by a vehicle tire would reach a height of 10-15 feet and would have to come down at 70-80 miles an hour to break the sunroof.” According to Mr. Zohdi, “‘There is not a chance in the world that an unintentional rock lofted into the air by a vehicle tire would ever break a sunroof panel.’”
Spontaneous sunroof breakage dangers
Spontaneously exploding sunroofs pose certain danger to drivers and passengers, and to neighboring cars on the road with them. Shattered safety glass can cut or nick people as it falls, or enter the eyes or mouth, causing more serious injuries. The “loud bang” ”like a gunshot” caused by the violent explosion can terrify and distract drivers, increasing accident risks.
Contact us for a free consultation
Our attorneys are currently speaking with Kia drivers about exploding sunroofs in 2011-2015 Kia Sorento, Kia Optima, and Kia Sportage vehicles; and 2014-2015 Kia Soul and Kia Cadenza vehicles. If your Kia sunroof exploded, help us investigate by speaking with our auto defect attorneys about your experience. Call toll-free (866) 493-0036 or fill out the form for a free case consultation.