NHTSA is looking into Hyundai Motor recalls

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NHTSA is looking into Hyundai Motor recalls

American traffic safety regulators will investigate whether Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors’ decision to recall some 1.7 million cars in the country was done properly.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a filing over the weekend that it will open a probe into the recall. Hyundai decided to recall 470,000 units of Sonata YFs in 2015 due to engine noise and engine failure.

Kia did not recall any cars although the company used the same Theta 2 engine as in Hyundai’s recalled vehicles.

Last month, the group decided to expand the recall to an additional 1.3 million cars, including some 620,000 Kia models such as the Sportage.

The probe by the NHTSA will question the timeliness of the recalls and whether the companies recalled enough vehicles. The U.S. authority will also look into whether Hyundai and Kia complied with reporting requirements.

The investigation comes after Hyundai and Kia were forced by Korea’s transport authority to recall vehicles for possible defects after they initially rejected the government’s request for a voluntary recall.

On May 12, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport rejected Hyundai’s claim that some of the defects on their vehicles were not critical to driver and passenger safety and ordered the company to recall 240,000 cars. A total of 12 models are subject to the compulsory recall.

Hyundai and Kia got into trouble with the authorities in Korea as well as in the United States after a rare whistleblower raised the possibility that the companies were overlooking defects on purpose.

Kim Gwang-ho, a former quality control engineer at Hyundai, told the NHTSA last August that the scope of the recall by Hyundai and Kia was not sufficient.

Kim got involved in a series of lawsuit with Hyundai, who fired him, claiming he leaked confidential business information.

Depending on the result of the investigation, Hyundai and Kia may be slapped with additional fines by the U.S. authority.

In 2014, Hyundai was forced to cough up a $17.35 million fine as a result of a probe by the NHTSA which decided that Hyundai delayed the recall of Genesis cars.

BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]

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