BMW Fined Up to $40 Million for 2014-2015 Mini Hardtop Cooper Recall

CARS.COM — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday fined BMW $40 million for failing to remedy a safety defect in 2014 and 2015 Mini Hardtop Cooper hatchbacks in a timely manner.

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NHTSA says the Mini Hardtop Cooper failed an October 2014 side-impact crash test to determine whether it met minimum crashworthiness standards. BMW Group, which owns Mini, told regulators that the Cooper had an incorrect weight rating and would pass a test conducted at the proper rating. The automaker agreed to correct the rating on the Cooper's doorjamb sticker and issue a voluntary service campaign to improve side-impact protection.

Nine months later, NHTSA retested a Cooper with the upgraded side-impact protection at the correct weight rating, but the car still failed. According to NHTSA, BMW hadn't launched the service campaign that it said it would. The agency says BMW has been late to notify owners and dealers of recalls multiple times since 2012, and has filed late recall-completion reports.

NHTSA says BMW violated the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which gives an automaker five days to issue a recall after it discovers a safety defect. The agency says it will require BMW to take steps to address practices that led to the misconduct, as well as submit to additional oversight and create a plan to deter BMW dealers from selling cars with unrepaired recalls. (NHTSA says that during its investigation, it was able to purchase a BMW with an unrepaired recall.) The automaker can avoid half the penalty if it complies with a consent order and avoids committing other safety violations.

BMW on Monday acknowledged committing the violations, and agreed to pay the penalties and improve its processes as directed by NHTSA. It marks the second civil penalty for the automaker over such violations, but it's much larger than the first — a $3 million NHTSA fine in 2012. NHTSA's maximum penalty was capped at $35 million until a new highway bill signed into law this month tripled it.

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