Jan. 9, 2015 – In the largest civil penalty levied against an automaker, the U.S. government is fining Honda US$70 million for not reporting to regulators some 1,729 complaints that its vehicles caused deaths and injuries, and for not reporting warranty claims.
The Japanese automaker acknowledged in November that it failed to report the death and injury complaints to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over an 11-year period beginning in 2003. The company admitted it learned of the omissions in 2011 but had waited three years to take action.
Honda also failed to report certain warranty claims and claims under customer satisfaction campaigns throughout the same period, federal officials said. The safety administration is imposing twin fines: $35 million for not reporting the death and injury complaints, and another $35 million for not reporting the warranty and customer satisfaction claims. Both fines are the maximums the agency is legally allowed to impose.
Transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said the fines reflect the government’s determination to take a tough stance against automakers who withhold safety information from regulators.
“What we cannot tolerate and will not tolerate is an automaker failing to report to us any recall issues,” Foxx said.
The complaints include incidents related to air bags made by auto supplier Takata Corp., as well as other defective parts. Honda has recalled more than 5 million vehicles in the U.S. since 2008 to fix a potentially fatal defect in Takata-made air bags, which can explode with too much force and injure occupants with shards of metal.
Officials said they have not yet received all the complaints from Honda and therefore don’t have a tally of how many deaths and injuries are involved.
The company said the omissions were a result of “errors related to data entry, computer coding, regulatory interpretation, and other errors in warranty and property damage claims reporting.”
— With files from Joan Lowy, the Associated Press