April 7 (UPI) -- Korean automakers Kia and Hyundai recalled 1.4 million vehicles for a potentially dangerous engine defect, a move that could undermine consumer confidence in the brands amid already-sagging U.S. sales.
A defect could cause engines to seize, causing safety hazards if the car is in motion. The automaker told the Financial Times most engines will not need to be replaced and most of the affected vehicles will be returned to owners with no repairs or replacements necessary, once a visual check of engine wear is completed.
The recall comes as Kia and Hyundai, which combined represent the world's fifth-largest auto company by sales, are struggling in two of its most important markets: the United States and China. The brands, which have long focused on compacts and light crossover SUVs, are struggling to win over U.S. consumers who are gravitating toward SUVs thanks to improved gas mileage and low gas prices.
In China, the Korean brands have taken a hit for political reasons -- the Chinese government opposes a THAAD missile defense shield being built in South Korea by the U.S. military.
The 1.4 million vehicles involved in the recall are roughly equivalent to the combined yearly sales by Kia and Hyundai in the United States. The affected vehicles include:
-- 2011-14 Kia Optima
-- 2012-14 Kia Sorento
-- 2012-13 Kia Sportage