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NHTSA awards Hyundai whistleblower $24 million

For reporting the company's failure to address issues with the Theta II engine

Hyundai had covered up a design flaw with its Theta II engine. PHOTO FROM HYUNDAI

In a way, whistleblowers can sometimes be called the unappreciated heroes of the industry. These individuals often risk their personal and professional lives for the sake of exposing fraudulent information or activities. They are often motivated to take action when they see some kind of decline in an organization’s ethical practices.

Such is the case with Kim Gwang-ho, an engineer who was formerly employed by Hyundai. In 2016, Kim reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the automaker was failing to address technical flaws in its Theta II series of engines. These engines, which are used in a wide variety of Hyundai and Kia models, apparently had a tendency to seize up and catch fire.

According to this Reuters report, Kim had reportedly felt that Hyundai was not taking action fast enough to rectify the problem and recall affected vehicles. This resulted to a record $210 million (P10.5 billion) civil penalty imposed on Hyundai and Kia subsidiaries in the United States for their shortcomings in protecting consumers.

For his troubles, Kim was recently awarded $24 million (P1.2 billion) by the NHTSA. According to the law firm representing him, such an amount is the biggest ever in the auto industry. It is also the first of its type under the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, which was passed by Congress in 2015 to encourage industry insiders to provide information to safety regulators.

Miggi Solidum

Professionally speaking, Miggi is a software engineering dude who happens to like cars a lot. And as an automotive enthusiast, he wants a platform from which he can share his motoring thoughts with fellow petrolheads. He pens the column ‘G-Force’.