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Hyundai and Kia whistleblower awarded $24 million by the NHTSA

It's the first award to come out of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's whistleblower program.

The Sonata is one of a few Hyundai models with its Theta II engine, which is also shared with its sister automaker Kia.

This probably doesn't come as a surprise to you, but major corporations don't always act in the best interests of their customers, particularly when those interests contradict those of the company. That's why whistleblowers are an essential part of keeping these companies -- whether they're vehicle manufacturers or something else entirely -- in line. Of course, being a whistleblower comes with its own set of risks, so the US government has programs in place to incentivize them to come forward.

One of these programs is administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government organization that handles vehicle recalls. NHTSA is allowed to award 30% of the money collected in fines from a company found to not be in compliance with federal statutes to the whistleblower who brought those violations to NHTSA's attention. And that's just what it did with the whistleblower who came forward to report Hyundai and Kia's violations, according to an announcement made by the organization on Tuesday.

The whistleblower in question received a $24 million reward for exposing Hyundai and Kia's misreporting of information to the NHTSA, their cover-up of serious engine issues with the Theta II engine family and the companies' slow handling of recalls. The $24 million represents 30% of the $81 million in cash collected in fines from Hyundai and Kia.

Earlier this year, the NHTSA launched a website that is meant to give potential whistleblowers an idea of what information to share and how to share it with the agency. The idea is to simplify the process of reporting violations and make it easier to come forward, as well as explain the protections afforded to whistleblowers by the federal government.

This $24 million award is the first that NHTSA has issued as part of its program. It is currently working on drafting official regulations for its whistleblower program to further solidify and clarify the process. 

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