Hyundai, Kia fined $ 137 million for delaying engine failure recalls

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Hyundai and Kia must pay $ 137 million in fines and safety improvements because they have moved too slowly to recall more than a million vehicles whose engines can fail.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the penalties on Friday. They solve a three-year government investigation into corporate behavior involving recalls of several models dating from the 2011 model year.

“It is essential that manufacturers appropriately recognize the urgency of their safety recall responsibilities and provide timely and candid information to the agency on all safety concerns,” said NHTSA deputy administrator, James Owens, in a statement.

Hyundai will pay $ 54 million and invest $ 40 million to improve security operations under a deal with the agency. The company is to build a field test and inspection laboratory in the United States and set up new computer systems to analyze the data to identify security issues. Additional penalties of $ 46 million will be postponed as long as the Korean automaker meets safety requirements, NHTSA said in a prepared statement.

Kia, which is affiliated with Hyundai, is due to pay $ 27 million and invest $ 16 million in safety performance measures. Another payment of $ 27 million will be postponed as long as Kia performs.

Kia will set up a US security office headed by a security official. Both companies will need to hire an independent third-party auditor to review their security practices, and they are committed to making organizational improvements to identify and investigate potential security issues in the United States.

“We value a collaborative and cooperative relationship with the US Department of Transportation and NHTSA, and we will continue to work closely with the agency to proactively identify and resolve potential safety issues,” said Brian Latouf , Hyundai’s chief safety officer, in a prepared statement.

A message was left on Friday requesting comment from Kia.

The U.S. security agency opened its probe in 2017 after Hyundai recalled about 470,000 vehicles in September 2015 because manufacturing debris could restrict the flow of oil to the connecting rod bearings. This could lead to wear and failure of the bearings, which could cause the four cylinder engines to stall or fire. The repair was an expensive replacement of the engine block.

The NHTSA said in investigative documents that Hyundai limited the recall to engines manufactured before April 2012, saying it resolved the manufacturing issue afterwards. Additionally, Kia has not recalled its cars and SUVs with the same 2.4-liter, 2.0-liter “Theta II” engines, claiming they were made on a different assembly line at a factory in Alabama. .

But 18 months after the 2015 recall, the two automakers announced recalls of an additional 1.2 million vehicles for the same issue, including models that the automakers initially said were not affected, NHTSA said when the investigation was initiated.

Engine failures and fire issues with Hyundais and Kias have plagued businesses for more than five years, affecting owners of more than 8 million vehicles.

In June 2018, the NHTSA opened two more inquiries into automakers that have yet to be resolved. The agency said it had complaints from homeowners of more than 3,100 fires, 103 injuries and one death. He granted a petition asking for the probes filed by the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, a consumer advocacy group.

Jason Levine, executive director of the center, said he asked NHTSA to open an investigation because no one seemed to be listening to complaints from Hyundai and Kia owners.

“Only time will tell if this type of deferred penalty and mandatory investments in security operations will actually discourage similar behavior in the future from these or other manufacturers,” Levine said.

The new investigations, one for Hyundai and one for Kia, looked at collisionless fires in nearly 3 million vehicles in the model lines of Korean carmakers affiliated.

In documents, NHTSA said it has received complaints of fires in the engine compartment, as well as fires involving other components, including taillight housings, wiring harnesses and bulbs.

Later, the affiliated Korean automakers acknowledged that engine block replacements may not have been properly performed in all cases by dealers. Kia said a hose carrying high-pressure fuel may have been damaged, misaligned or improperly tightened during repairs, allowing gas to leak and strike hot engine parts, causing more fires .

Other reminders followed. Hyundai and Kia have recalled more than 4.7 million vehicles, and they have run a “product improvement campaign” covering an additional 3.7 million to install software that will alert drivers of possible engine failures.

Data collected by the Center for Auto Safety shows 31 fire and engine recalls in the United States from Hyundai and Kia since 2015. The recalls involve more than 20 models from model years 2006 to 2021, totaling more than 8.4 million. vehicles.

In some cases, such as nearly 200,000 vehicles recalled in September for electrical brake system shorts, automakers have urged owners to park them outside as fires could start after vehicles stop. . There have also been recalls of brake fluid leaks, cracks in the fuel pump, damaged catalytic converters and problems with premature ignition of fuel in the cylinders, all of which could set the engines on fire.

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