Federal regulators have slapped Korean automaker Hyundai with a $17.35 million fine for taking too long to report an auto safety defect. According to a report in Automotive News, the defect involves Hyundai’s 2009-12 model year Genesis sedans, showing that the federal government is serious about enforcing safety laws in the wake of the General Motors ignition switch crisis. The issue that led to this fine was a brake problem in some of the 43,500 cars, which led to 87 consumer complaints, six reported accidents and two injuries, but no fatalities. Hyundai eventually issued the safety recall in October 2013.
When it comes to auto safety law, timing is key. Automakers are required to notify regulators about safety defects within five days of learning about the potential defect. In addition to the fine, Hyundai has also agreed to revamp its safety procedures and be subject to more severe oversight from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These penalties are also similar to what GM faced in May when it was hit with a $35-million fine over ignition-switch failures linked to at least 13 deaths. Hyundai apparently learned about the brake problem in 2012 from a supplier, but did not recall the vehicles until a year later.
For many decades NHTSA has been rather ineffective when it comes to fulfilling its role. Our legal practice has represented catastrophically injured individuals, who were hurt and disabled because of defective vehicles that were never recalled. It seems after the GM crisis that NHTSA is trying to approach enforcement differently, with a focus on how quickly auto defects are addressed, how promptly regulators are notified and what information is provided to dealers and consumers. NHTSA has been under a lot of pressure lately to explain why it did not act sooner and with more force in the GM ignition case.
Why Are Recalls Important?
As an auto defect law firm, we believe that time is of the essence when it comes to auto safety recalls. In the case of GM, lives could have been saved had the recall been issued in a timely manner. One of the families we represented in 2005 lost their loved one because GM failed to warn customers about the ignition defects. Automakers like GM try to cover up and stall because it is expensive for them to conduct these safety recalls. They put profits and their bottom line over the safety and well-being of consumers. This is unacceptable. We hope NHTSA continues its strict enforcement by holding these corporations accountable.