It comes as the U.S. regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the U.S. Department of Transportation prepare to propose regulations related to an automotive whistleblower program, the Congress created in 2015. By law, the agency is allowed to award 30% of collected penalties to a whistleblower who gives significant information resulting in action that brings penalties of over $1 million.
Kim reported to NHTSA in 2016 that Hyundai was failing to address a design flaw linked to its Theta II engines, which were prone to seizing up and even catching fire. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator while announcing the award, said:
The U.S. safety agency opened its probe in 2017 after Hyundai recalled about 470,000 vehicles in September 2015 because debris from manufacturing could restrict oil flow to connecting rod bearings. That could make the bearings wear out and fail, potentially causing the four-cylinder Theta II engines to stall or catch fire. The repair was an expensive engine block replacement.
Related: Hyundai & Kia to Pay a Record $210 Million Penalty in Delaying Recalls
NHTSA said in investigation documents that Hyundai limited the recall to engines made before April 2012, saying it solved the manufacturing problem after that. In addition, Kia didn’t recall its cars and SUVs with the same 2.4L and 2.0L Theta II engines, contending they were made on a different assembly line at a plant in Alabama. However, 18 months after the 2015 recall, both automakers announced recalls of 1.2 million more vehicles for the same problem, including models the automakers originally said weren’t affected, NHTSA said when it opened the investigation.
Engine failure and fire problems with Hyundais and Kia have plagued the companies for more than 5 years, affecting the owners of more than 8 million vehicles so far.
A 3d animation professional with over 20 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations & production facilities of Pakistan, an avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver writings to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com