중앙데일리

Three Korean car executives are indicted for delaying

July 26,2019
Three former auto executives have been indicted for intentionally delaying the recall of faulty vehicles.

According to legal sources Thursday, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office indicted Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors and three of their executives responsible for quality control for violating the Motor Vehicle Management Act. The employees were indicted without physical detention.

Kia Motors is 33.9 percent owned by Hyundai Motor and the two share quality control.

The three former employees are suspected of having been aware of faults with Hyundai’s Theta II engine in September 2015 but initiating recalls in April 2017. The sources added that prosecutors concluded that metallic debris around the engine crankshaft caused problems with oil flow.

The foreign matter interfered with the oil flow through connecting rod bearings for the Theta II engine and damaged the connecting rods.

The companies “knew of the faults but did not inform local consumers for more than a year and a half,” a source from the prosecution said.

Officials believe Hyundai Motor became aware of the problems with the engines, which were manufactured in Korea, while conducting recalls in the United States in 2015. The authorities started the investigation shortly after YMCA Korea reported Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors to them in April 2017 for the fault.

In September 2015, Hyundai Motor recalled around 470,000 Sonatas with 2-liter and 2.4 liter Theta II engines in the United States as the faulty engines could lock up while driving and cause noise. Back then, Kia Motors did not recall any of its vehicles, although the company used the same engine as in Hyundai’s recalled cars.

Later in April 2017, Hyundai Motor expanded its recall efforts by taking back an additional 1.3 million cars, including 62,000 Kia models, such as the Sportage.

Kim Gwang-ho, a former quality control engineer at Hyundai, told the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2016 that the scope of the recall by Hyundai and Kia was insufficient.

Hyundai and Kia have argued that they have not violated the laws as the reason for recall conducted in Korea is different from that in the United States. Kia said it didn’t conduct recalls initially in 2015 along with Hyundai Motor because the Theta II engines for the Kia vehicles were made on a different production line.

“The Motor Vehicle Management Act that the prosecution is citing is ambiguous regarding recalls, which is causing chaos for manufacturers and consumers altogether,” a Hyundai Motor spokesperson said.

“There have been arguments that officials are looking to criminally prosecute us for unclear recall requirements.”

Officials decided not to indict Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo, citing his deteriorating health.

BY KIM MIN-SANG, KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]


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