In November, Honda disclosed that it failed to report safety problems in a timely manner, specifically underreporting how many people died or were injured by faulty Takata airbag inflators in its vehicles. Now it’s time to pay the consequences. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that Honda will pay two $35 million civil penalties, for a total of $70 million.
According to NHTSA, the first fine is for the automaker’s failure to report 1,729 death and injury claims between 2003 and 2014. The second penalty stems from Honda’s failure to report certain warranty claims and claims under customer satisfaction campaigns throughout the same time period. Both infractions violate the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation Act.
It’s the largest auto safety fine in U.S. history and dwarfs the fine levied against General Motors last year; GM paid $35 million for its missteps in handling ignition-related recalls. Like GM, Honda also agreed to increased NHTSA oversight and third-party audits to ensure the law is followed in the future.
The agency imposed $126 million in fines in 2014, which is more than it issued in total in the agency’s 40-plus-year history, according to NHTSA. The government plans to keep the heat on automakers to ensure safety accountably in the future.
“Honda and all of the automakers have a safety responsibility they must live up to — no excuses. Last year alone, we issued more fines than in NHTSA’s entire history. These fines reflect the tough stance we will take against those who violate the law and fail to do their part in the mission to keep Americans safe on the road,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
Honda agrees and the automaker says it has already begun taking steps to correct the errors that led to the violations, including initiating new training regimens, changing internal reporting policy, making staffing and organizational changes, and enhancing oversight of its early warning reporting process.
“We have resolved this matter and will move forward to build on the important actions Honda has already taken to address our past shortcomings in early warning reporting. We continue to fully cooperate with NHTSA to achieve greater transparency and to further enhance our reporting practices,” Rick Schostek, Honda North America executive vice president, said in a statement.
Cars.com photo by Evan Sears