On Tuesday, US auto regulators announced a $24 million reward for a former Hyundai Motors engineer who reported safety violations committed by the South Korean carmaker.
Hyundai and its Kia subsidiary paid US $81 million in penalties, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
According to law, when an organization pays for a whistleblower fine, the whistleblower is entitled to 30% of the total fees paid by the accused organization or firm.
In addition, this is the first whistleblower award given by the administration since 2015 when the law was passed.
The law says insiders will be rewarded for speaking up about safety issues, according to a statement from the NHTSA.
Kim Gwang-ho, a Korean safety engineer located in Seoul, first contacted the US in 2016 via the law firm Constantine Cannon.
Mr. Kim said Hyundai failed to fix a design flaw in its Theta II engines, causing the cars to seize up and catch fire sometimes.
“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,” said Kim in the statement.
He also said he hopes his whistleblowing will help lead to “real safety improvements, both at Hyundai and throughout the industry.”
“At Hyundai, we often repeated the catchphrase: ‘Quality is our pride,'” said Kim.
“I blew the whistle so Hyundai and Kia would keep this promise.”
As a result of delayed recalls and inaccurate reports about engine characteristics, Hyundai and Kia was issued consent orders by the NHTSA in November 2020.
Reuters reported Hyundai paid a total of $210 million in fines for violations affecting 1.6 million cars.
“Whistleblowers play a crucial role in bringing information to NHTSA about serious safety problems that are hidden from the agency,” said Dr Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator.
“This information is critical to public safety and we are committed to rewarding those who bring information to us.”
In search of a response to Insider’s question about the Hyundai previous safety violations and reward to Kim received, a spokesperson for Kia Motors was reached but the official refused to comment.