Honda gets record $70 million penalty for unreported injuries, deaths

Honda has agreed to pay $70 million in penalties – a record – for failing to report thousands of customer complaints of injury and death since 2003. As part of the agreement, Honda will also face stricter oversights by government regulators. 

AP Photo/Koji Sasahara/File
A man walks past a Honda on display at Honda Motor Co. headquarters in Tokyo. The Obama administration on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 said it will fine Honda $70 million _ the largest civil penalty leveled against an automaker _ for not reporting to regulators over 1,700 complaints that its vehicles caused deaths and injuries and not reporting warranty claims.

Honda Motor Co. has agreed to pay a record $70 million in fines for failing to report over 1,700 injuries and deaths in the span of 11 years, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Thursday.  Comprised of two $35 million fines, the penalty is the highest allowed by the US against an automaker for reporting violations, according to the NHTSA. 

The Japanese automaker also agreed to a stricter oversight by NHTSA and third party audits to make sure federal safety reporting is accurately carried out in the future.

"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," said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind in a statement.

Honda was charged on two civil penalties: one for underreported death and injury incidents, and  one for failure to provide information for certain warranty claims. The NHTSA investigation also revealed that Honda failed to comply to a federal law that requires automakers to submit early warning reports. Such reports identify potential safety concerns including consumer complaints, production information, death or injury incidents, and more.

"The actions we are requiring will push Honda to significantly raise the bar on the effectiveness of its EWR reporting program," Rosekind said. "Our ongoing oversight will ensure compliance and determine if there is cause for additional actions."

Honda's safety issues came to a head last year, when the automaker recalled millions of vehicles equipped with faulty airbags from Takata Corp.The airbags, which could explode upon deployment and spew shrapnel at passengers and drivers, were linked to five deaths and several injuries in the US and abroad. The airbag recalls are not directly related to the Honda fines, according to the NHTSA. 

In total, ten automakers have recalled some 14.5 million vehicles with Takata airbags.  

Last year, the NHTSA issued $126 million fines in civil penalties, the highest total in the agency's 43-year history. Apart from Honda, several automakers, including Ferrari, Nissan, General Motors, and others were faced with serious fines.

Transportation reporting fines are limited to $35 million per fine, though the transportation's GROW AMERICA bill proposes raising the limit to $300 million.

"Honda and all of the automakers have a safety responsibility they must live up to – no excuses," US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. 

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