Honda Fined for Violations of Safety Law
JAN. 8, 2015
In a sharp escalation of penalties against automakers that skirt safety laws, the nation’s top auto safety agency has fined Honda Motor a record $70 million for grossly underreporting fatal accidents and injuries to the government, regulators said on Thursday.
The penalty doubles a fine levied against General Motors last year as the agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, faces scrutiny for being slow to identify safety problems and failing to use the full extent of its legal powers.
Honda, the agency said, broke the law in two ways, each earning the maximum fine of $35 million. It did not report hundreds of death and injury claims to the agency for the last 11 years nor did it report certain warranty and other claims in the same period. Both types of reports are considered crucial to helping regulators identify potential safety defects.
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Rick Schostek, a top executive at Honda North America, testified at a Senate hearing last week. He later said an audit identified “difficult facts about where we did not meet our obligations.”
“Today’s announcement sends a very clear message to the entire industry that manufacturers have responsibility for the complete and timely reporting of this critical safety information,” Mark Rosekind, the new head of the agency, said on Thursday.
The unfiled claims included eight, including one involving a death, for problems with airbags made by the Japanese supplier Takata, which itself has been embroiled in a safety crisis that has spurred the recall of millions of vehicles worldwide. The airbags can explode violently when they deploy, sending metal fragments flying into the cabin; five deaths have been linked to the defect.
Honda, the automaker most affected by the Takata recalls, said it