NHTSA made examples of General Motors and Toyota for recall delays, fining the automakers over ignition-switch problems and unintended acceleration respectively, and now Hyundai is being fined for failing to address a brake issue in older Genesis models.
The defect in question involves corrosion in "critical brake system components," according to the NHTSA. The corrosion can reduce braking effectiveness, and affects 2009-2012 Hyundai Genesis sedans. Hyundai originally issued a service campaign instead of a full recall, which instructed dealers to replace brake fluid in affected cars without explaining to customers what would happen if it wasn't changed. According to NHTSA, Hyundai knew in 2012 that the Genesis' brake fluids didn't sufficiently protect against corrosion, but didn't issue a recall until it was pressed by the agency following owner complaints of braking problems and an ensuing investigation.
The NHTSA notes that there have been no fatalities related to the defect, though six owners reported collisions that injured two. As of January 14, 2014, Hyundai has received 87 owner complaints about the Genesis, most citing braking difficulty.
"Safety is our top priority, and all automakers should understand that there is no excuse for failing to report a safety-related defect, as required by law," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a release. "This Administration will act aggressively and hold automakers accountable when they put the American public at risk."
Foxx had similarly harsh words for GM when it fined the American automaker the maximum amount of $35 million earlier this year. In April, Foxx proposed raising the maximum fine for slow execution of recalls to $300 million as a stronger deterrent for automakers. Many manufacturers have taken Foxx's warning seriously, as safety recalls for even the most minor of problems have been issued on almost a weekly basis following GM's ignition fiasco.
Hyundai has agreed to pay the fine, and as part of a consent order also agrees to "make improvements to its process of identifying, reporting, and communicating safety-related defects in a timely manner." The automaker will form a U.S. Technical Committee, which will review potential Hyundai recalls and make decisions on carrying them out. Hyundai will then be responsible for responding to the recalls based on the committee's recommendations.