Exploding Sunroofs: What can cause it, and who’s to blame?

Industry Updates

Frustrated drivers who were told by dealers to put their broken sunroof claim through insurance are pushing back by getting industry regulators involved. In one example spurred by owners, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating reports of spontaneous sunroof breakage in 2011-14 Kia Sorento models.

NHTSA has reviewed similar complaints by owners of other vehicles, and has sent information requests to four additional manufacturers: Ford, Volkswagen, Hyundai and Nissan. In reality, no automaker appears immune to the phenomenon.

Transport Canada has received a significant number of sunroof explosion complaints, and started two active investigations, one prompted by a Calgary realtor whose sunroof spontaneously shattered while driving his Buick. The dealer blamed an unseen rock, but when pressed, General Motors contributed $500 towards the $1,000 repair.

Faced with growing online evidence – and the gathering storm of class action lawsuits – manufacturers have begun to grudgingly admit that their auto glass may be defective. Some have begun honouring warranty claims and quietly recalling selected models.

Volkswagen Group is recalling some 2013-14 Audi A8 and S8 luxury sedans because the glass in the standard sunroof may shatter. Hyundai issued a recall on certain 2012 model-year Velosters for spontaneously exploding panoramic sunroofs. Jim Trainor, Hyundai’s U.S. public relations manager, suggested “defects with the glass” may be a factor.

For its part, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) has not noted any increase in the number of insurance claims involving broken auto glass, and hasn’t opened a dialogue with manufacturers regarding spontaneously exploding glass.

“IBC has not been made aware of increases in claims resulting from shattered glass and, therefore, we have not engaged the auto sector on this,” says IBC spokesperson Andrew McGrath.

Consumer advocate George Iny, president of the Automobile Protection Association, says insurance companies have not been rejecting roof glass claims, even though they probably could challenge some claims or impose a premium surcharge on vehicles with glass roofs.

“You can be certain that the day the insurance industry imposes a surcharge or excludes coverage for the glass roof of certain vehicles, the carmakers will design a better roof.”

  Read the full article on the Wheels.ca website

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