Last year, Hyundai Motor America was slapped with a significant fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) totalling no less than $210 million (approx. £155 million). The automaker agreed to pay, and now, the NHTSA is sending part of that fine to a whistleblower who brought the issues to light. And it's also a significant sum – $24 million (£17.7 million) to be exact.
This is the first such monetary award the NHTSA has ever given out, and it's obviously a big one. The agency has the authority to give up to 30 percent of cash collected in fines to a whistleblower who contributes significant information regarding a specific case. In this instance, the NHTSA says the whistleblower provided info regarding violations of the Safety Act by both Hyundai and Kia. $81 million of the total fine was paid to the US in cash, and the NHTSA is sending the 30-percent maximum allowable to the whistleblower.
The fine involved vehicle recalls from 2011 through 2014 and was tied to engines. Specifically, manufacturing problems with some of the 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre engines could lead to premature failure, notably in the Sonata saloon and Santa Fe SUV. Kia vehicles using these engines also experienced issues, but this wasn't the reason for the fine.
According to the NHTSA, neither Kia nor its parent company Hyundai responded to this potential safety issue in an adequate time, and the company allegedly reported inaccurate information about the seriousness of the issue. Apparently, these are things the whistleblower brought to light. And now, that action is rewarded by a multi-million-dollar reward.
"Whistleblowers play a crucial role in bringing information to NHTSA about serious safety problems that are hidden from the agency," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Dr. Steven Cliff in a statement. "This information is critical to public safety and we are committed to rewarding those who bring information to us."