AssociatedPress/NPR: Whistleblower gets more than $24M for reporting Hyundai and Kia over engine fires

Kim Gwang-ho (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

NPR website reports an Associated Press story, “The U.S. government’s road safety agency has paid more than $24 million to a whistleblower who reported that Hyundai and Kia moved too slowly to recall over 1 million vehicles with engines that could freeze up or catch fire.”

“In November of 2020, the agency announced that Hyundai and Kia would pay $137 million in fines and for safety improvements in an agreement to fix the engine problems. The announcement resolved a three-year government probe into the companies’ behavior involving recalls of multiple models since the 2011 model year.”

“The U.S. safety agency opened its probe in 2017 after Hyundai recalled about 470,000 vehicles in September of 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.”

FoxBusiness website reports, “Kim Gwang-ho, an engineer who worked for the automaker in South Korea, in 2016 reported to the NHTSA that Hyundai wasn’t adequately addressing an engine issue that was causing seizures and fires with potential safety consequences. It also provided it with evidence that led to the automaker paying $210 million in civil penalties for failing to recall the 1.6 million Hyundai and Kia vehicles affected in a timely fashion.”

TuningPro website lists the following cars as being available with the 2.0L Theta II engine:

2017-present Genesis G70
2009-2014 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
2018-present Hyundai i30N
2021-present Hyundai Kona N
2012-2020 Hyundai Santa Fe
2009-2019 Hyundai Sonata
2018-present Hyundai Veloster N
2011-2019 Kia Optima
2015-2020 Kia Sorento
2011-present Kia Sportage
2017-present Kia Stinger