A third-party audit showed that since 2003, Honda failed to report 1,729 deaths or injuries to federal regulators. On Monday, Honda admitted that for the past 11 years, they have under-reported to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as required by law.
The audit found that Honda failed to file more than half of the “Early Warning Reports” that should have been submitted to NHTSA under the TREAD act that took effect in 2003. The purpose of the EWR is for the agency to spot safety defect trends that could lead to recalls.
Honda contends that only through the audit did they find out they were improperly reporting cases. According to Honda, the under-reporting was due to “inadvertent” data entry and computer program errors. The report also revealed that Honda delayed notifying the federal agency about discrepancies and errors in the company’s death and injury reporting.
Honda clarified that the under-reporting is a separate issue from the current defective Takata air bag inflators believed to be at fault in at least three deaths. Honda says that the audit total includes eight Takata air bag failures involving one death and seven injuries, but that NHTSA had already been informed of these incidents by other means.
Although there are 10 other automakers involved in the U.S. air bag recalls, Honda has the most vehicles affected.
Last week, Honda executives testified before a Senate committee. This latest report puts them in a deeper hole.
In a statement by Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety said, “It strains credulity that a sophisticated company like Honda could make so many data-entry errors, coding errors and narrow interpretations of what’s a written claim.”
Honda claims they reported 1,144 cases during the period and didn’t notice something was wrong with its reporting until 2011 when an employee reported a discrepancy that was believed to affect the count. But, Honda admitted they failed to follow up and the issue did not resurface until a year later when questioned by NHTSA about the accuracy of its reports.
It is possible that Honda’s admission could lead to federal penalties of up to $35 million; the fine General Motors received for failure to disclose defective ignition switches in a timely manner. Earlier this month, Ferrari was fined $3.5 million for failing to submit the same EWR that Honda failed to file, even though Ferrari reports concerned only three fatalities.
Transportation secretary, Anthony Fox, has said that the $35 million limit for the fine amounts to a “rounding error” for a major automaker that brings in billions of dollars a year in profits. His department is asking Congress to raise the limit for a fine of $300 million.
Honda says they have corrected the computer issues, which led to under-reporting and will re-train their employees as well as update departments responsible for EWR.
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