Tallahassee Journal

Federal regulators fine Honda $70 million in safety investigation

Federal regulators fine Honda $70 million in safety investigation

Federal safety regulators fined Honda Motor Co. $70 million — the maximum allowed — for failing to report deaths and injuries involving its vehicles in a timely matter. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fine, which has two components, is the largest ever levied on an automaker by the safety agency. Honda paid $35 million for the unreported death and injury claims and an equal amount for failing to report warranty and service claims that might point to defects.Honda Store

“We cannot tolerate an automaker failing to report to us any safety issues,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Thursday. “If we don’t know about these problems, we are missing a crucial piece in the recall process.” Late last year, Honda acknowledged failing to tell NHTSA about 1,729 incidents involving injuries or deaths in its automobiles. The data should have been submitted as so-called early warning reports. Safety regulators use such reports to ferret out dangerous defects.

NHTSA is stepping up its enforcement actions after coming under fire from Congress for not detecting safety defects quickly enough, including General Motors Co.’s deadly ignition switch. The Honda fine “signals a new resolve by NHTSA and [the Transportation Department] to hold automakers strictly accountable for reporting failures,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond school of law in Virginia. “Cars are simply too dangerous to have reporting errors like Honda allowed.”

General Motors was hit with a $35-million fine in May, after it was revealed that the company knew about the fatal ignition switch failures for more than a decade before reporting them to NHTSA. Last year, the federal agency also fined South Korean automaker Hyundai $17.4 million for failing to issue a recall in a timely manner and Italian automaker Ferrari $3.5 million for failing to report incidents that included three fatalities. The increased attention on auto safety contributed to the record recall of 60 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, about double the previous record set in 2004. Honda blamed the lapse on data entry and computer coding errors, as well as a “narrow interpretation” of what incidents required a report to regulators.