A former Hyundai Motors engineer was awarded $24 million (N9.9 billion ) for reporting safety breaches committed by the South Korean automaker, US auto authorities revealed on Tuesday.
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The funds are derived from $81 million (N33.3 billion) in fines paid to the US by Hyundai and its Kia subsidiary, according to a statement issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The engineer’s incentive is the maximum of 30% of the total fees that the organization is permitted by law to pay whistleblowers.
According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), this is also the first time the administration has paid out a whistleblower prize under a statute introduced in 2015 that incentivizes insiders to speak out about automotive safety hazards.
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Safety engineer Kim Gwang-ho, who’s based in the South Korean capital of Seoul, submitted his report to the US in 2016, based on a statement issued by the legal firm Constantine Cannon, which represented him.
According to Kim’s lawyers, Hyundai failed to rectify a design issue in its Theta II engines, which were freezing up and occasionally catching fire.
In the statement, Kim stated that “I am pleased that I have been justly compensated for the risks I took to protect owners of these defective cars and grateful that the US’s legal system had a program in place to make this possible,”.
He also expressed hope that his whistleblowing will result in “real safety improvements, both at Hyundai and throughout the industry.”
The NHTSA stated that it issued cooperation orders to Hyundai and Kia in November 2020 after determining that the firms had delayed auto recalls and “inaccurately reported crucial information” regarding the engines.
According to Reuters, the carmakers were fined a total of $210 million (N86.2 billion) for infractions involving 1.6 million impacted cars.
When inquired about Kia Motors’ prior safety infractions and Kim’s prize, a spokesman declined to comment. Hyundai Motors did not react promptly to a request for comment.
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