The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Jan. 8 that it has fined Honda a total of $70 million for the automaker’s failure to report deaths and injuries associated with its vehicles, as well as underreporting warranty claims and customer complaints.
“Honda and all of the automakers have a safety responsibility they must live up to — no excuses,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a release. “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.”
The NHTSA says that Honda failed to report 1,729 death or injury claims filed between 2003 and 2014.
The total penalty is actually twice the maximum Congress allows the NHTSA to impose, but the figure was reached by implementing the maximum fine of $35 million once in response to injury or death claims, and once in response to warranty and dissatisfaction claims.
Honda has agreed to the fines. Honda North America released a statement Thursday saying that it would address its shortcomings as a company and focus on moving forward.
Rising Implementation of Penalties
The most recent set of fines does not address the scandal over exploding airbags made by Takata and installed in vehicles sold by Honda and numerous other automakers.
Damages based on deaths and injuries caused by manufacturer error are handled through personal injury lawsuits (which are won by the plaintiff in auto-related cases approximately 60% of the time), often class-action civil suits; these fines imposed by the government are related simply to reporting failures.
2014 marked a record year both for recalls and federally imposed penalties. About 60 million vehicles were recalled, and automakers paid around $126 million in fines.
The NHTSA has been keen to emphasize that it is cracking down on auto manufacturers, and administrator Mark Rosekind said the Department of Transportation is seeking to have fine limits raised to $300 million per violation for future infractions.