Ex Hyundai engineer awarded $24.3 million for revealing defective engines

A former Hyundai engineer was awarded $24.3 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for reporting defective Theta II engines. Kim Gwang-ho, a former safety engineer living in Seoul, South Korea, became a whistleblower under a law that allows individuals with detailed information about design or manufacturing flaws to collect an award if the information is verified.

“At Hyundai, we often repeated the catchphrase ‘Quality is our pride,’ ” Kim said in a statement. “I blew the whistle so Hyundai and Kia would keep this promise. I am glad I helped save vehicle owners everywhere several billion dollars in repair costs that Hyundai and Kia schemed to put on them.”

Kim also helped save lives, NHTSA said.

In 2016 Kim reported to NHTSA that Hyundai was failing to address a design flaw linked to its Theta II engines, which were prone to seizing up and even catching fire.

NHTSA found that Hyundai and Kia had delayed recalling the vehicles with those engines.  

In November last year, NHTSA ruled that Hyundai and Kia conducted untimely recalls of 1.6 million vehicles equipped with Theta II engines and inaccurately reported crucial information to the agency about the serious defects in the engines. The automakers paid $81 million in cash penalties to the government, NHTSA said.

Under the new automotive whistleblower program, auto employees who report fraud are entitled to up to 30% of any collected monetary sanctions resulting from their claims. Whistleblowers are also protected by law.

JEFFREY NEWMAN REPRESENTS WHISTLEBLOWERS, INCLUDING THOSE WHO HAVE REPORTED MAJOR VEHICLE DEFECTS UNDER THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION WHISTLEBLOWER PROGRAM. HE CAN BE REACHED AT JNEWMAN@NEWMANSHAPIRO.COM OR AT 617-823-3217.