Federal regulators close case as thousands of people still complain about exploding sunroofs

ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s a story our sister station WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News has been following for years: sunroofs that spontaneously shatter.

Federal regulators closed their case into the problem without ever determining a cause.

Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray has learned that there are still thousands of complaints that have been registered with regulators.


“This is a big piece of glass. The whole thing came out,” said April Harvey, showing gray what was left of her shattered sunroof. “It’s a safety concern. Definitely it is.”

Harvey said her husband was driving on Interstate 285 in their brand-new Hyundai Palisade when the sunroof exploded.

“All of a sudden, he heard a big boom. And then the glass started shattering on him,” Harvey said.

It’s the same thing that happened last year to Kate Holder in her new Jeep Wagoneer.

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“I was going 55 miles an hour then all of a sudden, like, literally an explosion,” Holder told Gray at the time.

“Truly spontaneous?” Gray asked her.

“Yes, the most bizarre thing ever,” Holder said.

But it actually has happened so frequently that federal regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, launched a 7-year investigation finding “spontaneous sunroof glass shattering is not an uncommon occurrence: More than 4,000 complaints of such occurrences were reported by the 13 manufacturers.”

Harvey’s husband had to go to urgent care after spitting up blood, worried he’d swallowed some of the glass.

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Hyundai settled a class action lawsuit about exploding sunroofs in 2019, agreeing to pay for repairs and cover shattered sunroofs by warranty for several model vehicles between 2011 and 2016.

But NHTSA closed their sunroof investigation in 2021 without ever determining the cause of the shattered sunroofs writing it “has not identified sufficient evidence of a safety-related defect in the subject sunroof.”

But the Harveys can’t help thinking what could have happened.

“Can you imagine a distraction like that?” Harvey said.

A big issue the Harveys are dealing with -- and most drivers this happened to experience -- these sunroofs are typically not covered by warranty, even on new cars like theirs.

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Gray has contacted Hyundai for comment. He received the following statement on April 8.

“The safety of our customers is Hyundai’s number one priority. In the event of a safety-related defect identified in any of our vehicles, Hyundai acts swiftly and efficiently to recall and fix the problem for affected customers. For instance, in 2012 and 2013 we recalled certain Hyundai Velosters because we identified a manufacturing issue that may have caused damage to the sunroof glass.

Hyundai has commissioned multiple studies to analyze instances of sunroof breakage. Those studies have found no inherent defect within the sunroofs and the only confirmed cause of damage to the glass panels of sunroofs has been related to foreign object impact.  Hyundai has identified no other safety-related defects and has issued no other safety-related recalls on its sunroofs since the reports of late last year. Hyundai continues to monitor this issue and if a product defect is identified we will take action to ensure the safety of our customers.”

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Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.