The summer of recalls continues as Korean automaker Hyundai is set to pay a $17.35 million fine levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Federal regulators contend that Hyundai was very slow to acknowledge that brake lines in their automobiles were subject to corrosion, which could have put lives at risk. Essentially, Hyundai reportedly knew as early as 2012 that brake lines in its 2009 through 2012 Genesis vehicles could be subject to corrosion, which would have reduced braking power.

Instead of issuing a recall, as most automakers do, Hyundai reportedly advised car owners to replace their brake fluid without warning them of the consequences that not replacing the fluid could have. 

Despite the findings by federal regulators, Hyundai insists that it remains committed to meeting the highest standards of safety.

As we have noted in previous posts, recalls are important for automakers and consumers alike. Automakers have a continuing legal duty to keep consumers safe from dangerous hazards; especially those that they would not readily discover. If an automaker fails to do so (by issuing a recall) and the hazard results in an accident that injures a consumer, the automaker could be held liable. This means that injured parties could seek compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses.

Additionally, the automaker could be subject to civil and criminal sanctions, much like the $35 million fine General Motors was subject to earlier this year for failing to properly address ignition switch issues.

In the meantime, the NHTSA claims that 70 percent of the affected vehicles have been repaired. 

Source: ABC “Gov’t fines Hyundai $17.35 million over brake defect,” Joan Lowy,  August 7, 2014