Honda faces $35mln fine over unreported injuries, deaths

Honda faces $35mln fine over unreported injuries, deaths

PanARMENIAN.Net - Honda Motor Co. said it failed to report more than 1,700 claims of injury or death involving its cars to U.S. regulators, a violation that would be one of the biggest in history and could lead to a fine of $35 million, Bloomberg reports.

In a synopsis of an internal review filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Honda blamed the underreporting on “inadvertent data entry or computer programming errors” that spanned 11 years. NHTSA hasn’t made the audit documents public yet as it continues an investigation.

“The audit identifies difficult facts where we did not meet our obligations,” Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda North America, told reporters on a conference call. There will be retraining and staffing changes, he said.

The number of injury-claim omissions exceeded the 1,144 reports Honda filed over the period and primarily came to light because investigations into Takata Corp. air-bag recalls cast doubt on the diligence of automakers to tell the government about potential product defects. In some cases, Honda didn’t share with NHTSA information from police reports.

NHTSA is reviewing Honda’s report as part of an investigation into the company’s failure to report air-bag related deaths and injuries in a timely manner, said Kevin Vincent, the agency’s chief counsel. There’s no timetable for an agency decision, he said in a statement.

“We received Honda’s response to our Special Order and will immediately begin reviewing the documents as part of our ongoing investigation,” Vincent said, according to Bloomberg.

Honda President Takanobu Ito said today the automaker didn’t share the same understanding as authorities of its obligations under U.S. law. He said local management made many mistakes filing early-warning reports, which NHTSA relies on to help spot potential defects.

Japan’s government is forming groups to oversee air-bag recalls tied to Takata and probe Honda’s U.S. reporting errors, Transport Minister Akihiro Ohta told reporters today in Tokyo, where both the companies are based.

Honda said eight of the 1,729 cases involved Takata air-bag inflator ruptures and that NHTSA knew of those incidents.

Automakers face fines of $7,000 per violation per day for not abiding by the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act, which requires the companies to tell regulators about customer injuries, lawsuits, warranty claims and complaints. If Honda’s admitted lapses -- spanning from July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2014 -- average at least three days each, the automaker would actually exceed the law’s $35 million maximum civil penalty.

The largest fine NHTSA has levied for lack of compliance with its early-warning reporting system was a $3.5 million penalty last month against Ferrari SpA for failing to file information on alleged defects and three deaths.

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