South Korea recalls Hyundai cars, asks probe on cover-up

This is the first time ever that the ministry ordered a compulsory recall of Hyundai and Kia vehicles, and comes after the automakers had rejected an earlier order for a voluntary recall, saying the defects did not compromise driving safety.

Although Hyundai and Kia are dominant players in South Korea and mainline automakers in the US, they are both poised for a possible hit to their reputation over the recalls, and Korean customers are already irritated about a perceived lack of urgency to address problems, along with a perception that Hyundai and Kia models offered in the USA are sold with more and better features for less money than their home-country counterparts. Hyundai voluntarily came up with recall plans for three of the problems mentioned.

The affected models include Hyundai's i-30 hatchback, the Sonata sedan, the Genesis and Kia's Mohave and Carnival minivan.

About a fortnight ago, Kia Motors announced its official India debut.

It is the first hearing in Korea to take place after a auto company declined a recall request. However, the ministry said, considering the companies' previous recall cases and the safety of consumers, it decided to make the recall compulsory.

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It is generally believed Kim also complained to NHTSA, the USA auto-safety regulator, which ordered a massive recall of 1.2 million vehicles in the US and Canada that were equipped with Theta II engines.

On Friday, Hyundai and Kia said in a joint statement they "accept the administrative order", adding: "There have been no reported injuries or accidents from the cited issues".

The government recommended that Hyundai provide free repairs for nine other defects that do not affect safety.

The ministry launched an investigation into 32 alleged defects in Hyundai and Kia cars after a Hyundai manager on its quality control team flagged them previous year.

Noting that the company undertook a "feasibility study" to set up plant outside Korea, the release quoting KIA Motors CEO and President, Han-Woo Park said he expressed "regret" for not able to consider Tamil Nadu "due to business needs and requirements of the company". The Ministry's stern response in the latest instance appears to be an attempt to change these practices at Hyundai and Kia, which are two of South Korea's flagship corporations.

  • Rita Burton