Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> said on Tuesday it had stopped U.S. sales of its 2011 Sonata sedan due to potential faults in the front door latches that could affect 5,000 vehicles.
Hyundai, which received complaints from customers but no reports of accidents or injuries, notified dealers late on Monday and the stop-sale order was put into effect at U.S. dealers on Tuesday, spokesman Miles Johnson said.
The automaker expects to notify the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this week of the possible defect, he said. NHTSA likely will look on it as requiring a formal safety recall because it involves door latches, he said.
Hyundai already has started to ship replacement parts to its dealers and expects the repairs if necessary to take about an hour, Johnson said.
Dealers will start to receive the replacement parts on Wednesday allowing them to effectively lift the sales halt as soon as the cars are repaired, he said.
About 1,300 of the cars were sold to customers and they will be notified by mail, Johnson said. The cars were built from December through February 14 at Hyundai's plant in Alabama when the carmaker began using a different latch, he said.
Essentially, the front door locks could fail to return to a stowed position after being opened, keeping the door from closing and resulting in a warning light illuminating on the dashboard, he said.
Hyundai has been one of the stronger performers in the U.S. auto sector in recent years, gaining market share and logging an 8.3 percent sales increase in 2009, while the industry fell 21 percent overall to the lowest levels since the early 1980s.
The Sonata comprised about 37 percent of Hyundai's U.S. car sales last year.
(Reporting by David Bailey; editing by Carol Bishopric)