Safety First

NHTSA slaps Hyundai, Kia with $210 million penalty for engine failures

The Theta II engine, shown here in the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, was the subject of a massive recall.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Half a decade's worth of Hyundai and Kia vehicles have been effected by recalls regarding their Theta II engines. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched an inquiry into the timelines of the recalls, which were issued from 2015 to 2017 for engines and found that both Hyundai and Kia conducted untimely recalls and reported inaccurate information to the NHTSA.

Hyundai and Kia share common ownership.

The Theta II engine came in 2.4-liter and 2.0-liter variants. Over 1.6 million vehicles came equipped with the engine including 2011-2014 model year Hyundai Sonatas, 2013-2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sports, 2011-2014 Kia Optimas, 2012- 2014 Kia Sorentos, and 2011-2013 Sportages.

NHTSA detailed the engine defect in its consent orders with the companies:

"Metal debris may have been generated from factory machining operations as part of the manufacturing of the engine crankshaft which may not have been completely removed from the crankshaft's oil passages during the cleaning process. In addition, the machining processes of the crankpins caused an uneven surface roughness. As a result, the metal debris and uneven surface roughness can restrict oil flow to the bearings, thereby increasing bearing temperatures causing premature bearing wear. A worn connecting rod bearing will produce a cyclic knocking noise from the engine and may also result in the illumination of the engine warning lamp and/or oil pressure lamp in the instrument panel. If the warnings are ignored and the vehicle is continued to be driven, the bearing may fail and the vehicle could stall while in motion."

"Safety is NHTSA's top priority," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens. "It's critical that manufacturers appropriately recognize the urgency of their safety recall responsibilities and provide timely and candid information to the agency about all safety issues."

The $210 million is an amount split between the two companies. Kia is responsible for $70 million of the payout. According to the signed consent order between the company and the NHTSA, Kia is required to pay $27 million by January 22, 2021. An additional $27 million payment is deferred and held in abeyance by NHTSA pending Kia's satisfactory completion of the stipulations of the order. Kia is required to pay an additional $16 million to create advanced data analytics capabilities to enhance its ability to detect and study emerging safety-related defect trends on its vehicles.

Kia has also committed to creating a Kia Safety Office, which will be headed by a Chief Safety Officer (CSO) who is authorized to exercise all safety-recall decision-making for the United States market, independently and without approval from Kia Motors Corporation including its parent company in Korea. The CSO is expected to have a continuing relationship with the NHTSA on this issue and future safety concerns.

Hyundai will pay $140 million in civil penalties for their actions regarding the recall. The first chunk, $54 million, is expected to be paid by January 22, 2021. An additional $46 million payment is deferred and held in abeyance by NHTSA pending Hyundai's satisfactory completion of the stipulations of the order. Hyundai is required to invest $40 million into safety infrastructure. That amount is further broken down into two parts: $15 million for the ability to detect and study emerging safety-related defect trends on its vehicles and $25 million for a test and inspection laboratory.

Like with Kia, Hyundai is required to hire a CSO. In Hyundai's case, that individual will lead the HMNA North American Safety Office while making independent decisions regarding recalls and safety issues. Like Kia's CSO, this individual is expected to have a continuing relationship with the NHTSA.

Additionally liabilities and penalties are possible.

Hyundai has already appointed its CSO, Brian Latouf. Latouf joined Hyundai after a long career working inn various safety-centric positions at General Motors.

"Customer safety is our highest priority and we are taking immediate action to enhance our response to potential safety concerns," said Latouf. "We value a collaborative and cooperative relationship with the U.S. Department of Transportation and NHTSA, and will continue to work closely with the agency to proactively identify and address potential safety issues. We are committed to a best in class U.S. safety office."

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Updated compact car

Kia announces updates for 2022 Forte

Kia revised the Forte's styling for 2022.

Kia

While many automakers cut cars to focus on highly profitable trucks and SUVs, Kia has remained dedicated to cars and continues improving them year after year. The Forte was updated for 2022 with new tech, massaged styling, and revised advanced safety features.

The new Forte offers a revised front-end design, new bumpers, updated wheels, and updated headlights. Though the car's overall shape and style are familiar, the detail work around the grille, lower front fascia, and headlights adds a sharp, modern look to the car. The same is true for the car's rear end, as the new bumper, taillights, and trunk lid spoiler all add to the car's appeal but don't drastically differentiate it from its predecessor.

2022 Kia Forte The Forte can be had with a powerful turbocharged engine.Kia

Inside, the new Forte features a standard 4.2-inch color driver information display and an eight-inch touchscreen that runs wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A massive 25-inch wide touchscreen system is standard for the GT and GT-Line trims that includes navigation and over-the-air map updates. The car can be optioned with SynTex synthetic leather upholstery and the available smart key system now includes remote start.

The Forte is still offered with two engine choices for 2022. They include a 2.0-liter inline-four that produces 147 horsepower and returns 41 mpg on the highway. A continuously variable transmission is paired with the 2.0-liter engine. The upgraded engine is a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four that produces 201 horsepower through either a seven-speed dual clutch automatic or a six-speed manual transmission.

2022 Kia Forte The Forte comes packed with standard tech and safety features.Kia

A host of advanced driver aids are standard: Forward collision-avoidance assist, forward collision warnings, lane departure warnings, lane keeping assist, and a driver attention warning system. The Forte is available with highway driving assist, navigation-based adaptive cruise control, safe exit warnings, blind spot collision avoidance assistance, forward collision alerts, pedestrian and cyclist detection, and rear cross-traffic alerts.

2022 Kia Forte Synthetic leather is available in the Forte.Kia

The Monterrey, Mexico-built Forte should begin arriving on dealers' lots soon. Kia offers the car in four trims: FE, LXS, GT-Line, and GT. The mid-level EX trim was dropped for 2022.

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New compact luxury SUV

2022 Lexus NX gets new tech and PHEV drivetrain

The NX is all-new for 2022.

Lexus

The NX may not be Lexus' most popular SUV – that title goes to the RX – but it's got a lot to offer in a compact package. Lexus redesigned the NX for 2022, and the big stories are its new PHEV powertrain, updated tech, and improved safety features.

The 2022 NX 450h+ is Lexus' first plug-in hybrid vehicle. It's expected to deliver 36 miles all-electric range, 84 MPGe combined, a 0-60 mph time of six seconds. It's joined in the NX lineup by the NX 350h hybrid, which uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two high-torque motor-generators that produce a combined output of 239 horsepower. The NX 350h is capable of returning 39 mpg combined and a 0-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds.

2022 Lexus NX New tech and updated safety features are headline changes for 2022.Lexus

A turbocharged gas engine rounds out the NX powertrain selection. It's a 2.4-liter unit that makes 203 horsepower and 184 horsepower. Surprisingly, it's weaker than both of the hybrid powertrains, and is only capable of a 0-60 mph time of 8.2 seconds with front-wheel drive. Fuel economy lands at 28 mpg combined.

The new NX comes standard with a 9.8-inch touchscreen that employs a new Lexus interface to make interactions smoother and easier. A 14-inch touchscreen is optional, and includes a three-year trial for a bundle of connected services. Lexus offers a new connected smartphone feature that allows drivers to store their vehicle profiles in the cloud and take them to other Lexus vehicles equipped with the tech.

2022 Lexus NX The NX gets a PHEV powertrain option for the first time.Lexus

The Lexus Interface also offers advanced voice controls and a new voice assistant feature. The automaker says that it was designed to recognize natural speech, and uses two microphones with noise cancellation, seat detection, and speaker location capabilities. Drivers can ask for the weather, traffic situations, control the audio system, and more with their voice.

The NX's safety features got a boost for 2022 as well. Standard features now include risk avoidance emergency steer assist, left-turn oncoming vehicle detection and braking, right/left turn oncoming pedestrian detection and braking, and dynamic radar cruise control with curve speed management.

2022 Lexus NX F Sport models get sporty interior finishes.Lexus

The 2022 Lexus NX should begin arriving on dealers' lots in December 2021. Pricing for the NX 250 FWD starts at $39,025, which includes a $1,075 destination fee. The range-topping NX 450h+ starts at $56,635.

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