Hyundai Puts $50M into Safety Testing Facility
Feb. 16, 2022—Hyundai last week at the Chicago Auto Show announced the development of a new Safety Test and Investigation Laboratory.
The facility will be built at Hyundai America Technical Center in Superior Township, Mich., just outside of Detroit. According to a news release, the facility will "further existing safety testing and analysis" and will have a field crash investigation, high voltage battery and forensics labs, as well as a 500-meter track and a "Vehicle Dynamics Area."
Scheduled to open in Fall 2023, the facility will cost more than $50 million to complete. Once completed, the facility will also create around 150 new jobs for the Detroit metropolitan area.
“With the added testing and investigation capabilities of the STIL, we will better understand customer vehicle issues, identify and address defects and analyze vehicle systems more efficiently with our own, on-site laboratory," Hyundai North American Chief Safety Officer Brian Latouf said in the release. "The access to real-world data will help accelerate our pursuit of a best-in-class safety office and enable effective safety technologies to help protect our customers and their families.”
The development of the facility is the result of a collaboration with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that was based on a 2020 consent order. The NHTSA in November 2020 issued that consent order due to recalls related to issues with Theta II engines in some Hyundai and Kia vehicles. The combined penalties for both automakers totaled $210 million.
The consent orders were issued "to enhance each company's safety practices," according to a news release from the NHTSA when the orders were submitted. Hyundai was required to pay a $140 million civic penalty and is under parameters of the order until November 2023. The NHTSA has the option to extend the order by another year if it feels it is necessary.
“Safety is NHTSA’s top priority,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said in the 2020 release. “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.”
Hyundai's new testing facility complies with a provision of the consent order that requires both companies to commit to "substantial organizational improvements" to enable faster and more effective responses to U.S.-based safety issues, as well as communicating those issues transparently and consistently with the NHTSA.
The automaker has had to recall just under 1 million vehicles over the last four months due to various issues; in October, 550,000 vehicles were recalled due to turn-signal issues. Two months later in December, just under 3,000 Ioniq EVs were recalled due to "unintentional acceleration." Earlier this month, another 350,000 SUVs were recalled due to fire risk.
"Hyundai recognizes the value and importance of enhancing its hands-on safety evaluation processes," Hyundai's news release read. "The STIL will enable Hyundai to analyze field data, understand the root cause of issues and quickly take action to ensure vehicle safety. Having on-site access to perform real-world evaluations further enhances our safety commitment to our customers and emphasizes our commitment to the region.”