The Obama administration said Thursday it is fining Honda $70 million — the largest civil penalty levied against an automaker — for not reporting to regulators some 1,729 complaints that its vehicles caused deaths and injuries, and for not reporting warranty claims.
The Japanese automaker acknowledged in November that it failed to report the death and injury complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over an 11-year period beginning in 2003. The company admitted it learned of the omissions in 2011 but had waited three years to take action.
The company also failed to report certain warranty claims and claims under customer satisfaction campaigns throughout the same period, federal officials said. The safety administration is imposing twin fines — $35 million for not reporting the death and injury complaints, and another $35 million for not reporting the warranty and customer satisfaction claims. Both fines are the maximums the agency is legally allowed to impose.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the fines reflect the government's determination to take a tough stance against automakers who withhold safety information from regulators.
"What we cannot tolerate and will not tolerate is an automaker failing to report to us any recall issues," Foxx said.
The Honda complaints include incidents related to air bags made by Japanese auto supplier Takata Corp., as well as other defective parts. Honda has recalled more than 5 million vehicles in the U.S. since 2008 to fix a potentially fatal defect in Takata-made air bags. The air bag inflators can rupture after a crash and injure occupants with shards of metal.
Foxx said information about Honda's failure to disclose the death and injury complaints also has been forwarded to the Justice Department. The Center for Auto Safety, a consumer watchdog group, called for a criminal investigation of Honda after the company's failure to disclose the complaints became public.