The National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration has announced that Hyundai and Kia must pay $137 million in fines and invest in safety improvements in the United States. The penalties were assessed for the car manufacturers’ delays in issuing recalls for engine defects that could cause the engines in Kia and Hyundai vehicles to stall or catch fire. The defects affected over one million vehicles, from model years 2006 through 2021. The probe began in 2017 after a Hyundai recall of about 470,000 vehicles. The initial recall was limited to engines made prior to 2012 and Kia did not issue a recall initially, even though Kia vehicles used the same engine. Hyundai and Kia later recalled 1.2 million more vehicles for the same engine defect, including vehicles that they initially said were not affected by the problem. Hyundai and Kia then acknowledged after the recalls were issued that the engine replacements for the defects may not have been properly performed, which caused additional fires.
As a result of the National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration probe, Hyundai must pay $54 million in fines and invest $40 million in improved safety operations, which includes building a field test and inspection laboratory in the United States. Kia must pay $27 million in fines up front with another $27 million deferred pending Kia’s improvement in safety measures. Kia must also invest $16 million in safety performance measures, including setting up a U.S. safety office headed by a chief safety officer. Vehicle safety is critically important for consumers. It is encouraging to see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stand up to vehicle manufacturers that put consumers at risk in dangerous vehicles.