Hyundai Motor is being sued over EV battery fires as General Motors recalls nearly 70,000 EVs with batteries from the same maker, LG Chem.
Around 200 people lodged a class-action lawsuit against Hyundai last week, seeking compensation for what they say is the reduced value of their EVs and other losses, Reuters reported.
One owner had initiated a petition drive to sue the carmaker after the same brand of EV caught fire in his neighbourhood, forcing about 20 residents to evacuate their homes.
A lawyer told the news agency they were initially seeking KRW8m (US$7,200) per plaintiff but they could increase demand as the trial proceeds.
The plaintiffs want Hyundai to replace the entire Kona EV battery pack, not just update the software, as the recall provides.
Reuters noted a series of fires involving automakers, including GM, BMW and Ford Motor Co, had expose the challenge the industry faces in managing the risks of new technology and the pressures to boost battery production and performance.
Hyundai has over 74,000 Kona EVs, its top-selling electric car, worldwide after 16 caught fire in South Korea, Canada and Europe in two years.
Reuters said South Korea's safety agency is investigating the cause of the Kona fire, and depending on the results, Hyundai and LG Chem could face costs up to $540m, according to analysts cited by the news agency.
In a statement to Reuters, Hyundai said the cause of fire was unclear but it suspects internal damage to batteries may be to blame, adding it was investigating the case with its supplier and the transport ministry.
Hyundai said it was not considering setting aside money for recalls as it expects its software fix will be able to prevent fires by detecting problems.
"We are constantly monitoring the situation after an update of the (battery management system) and we will continue to try to minimise consumer inconveniences going forward," Hyundai told Reuters, adding problems were found only in some vehicles, which would get battery replacements at no cost.
LG Chem CEO Hak Cheol Shin told Reuters in October the battery system is very complex, suggesting problems may be caused by other components made by Hyundai's suppliers.
"As a supplier of a key component of the battery system, we clearly feel responsibility. But until a clear cause would be determined, we can't come up with measures to address the problems," he said.