Having recently exposed several automakers for ducking national safety laws, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) has cracked the whip, fining Honda a record $70 million for its failures to report fatal accidents and injuries to the government for the past 11 years. This figure is double that of the $35 million fine NHTSA imposed on General Motors in 2014 for its negligence in reporting the infamous ignition switch defect. NHTSA reported that Honda received the massive fine for breaking the law in two ways: first, by failing to report death and injury claims to the agency and second, for concealing warranty claims.
The unreported claims were uncovered in connection with problems related to airbags manufactured by Japanese auto parts producer Takata, which has come under fire in a massive recall for its shrapnel-emitting exploding airbags. Though a Honda employee identified the underreporting issue in 2011 and regulators notified the automaker one year later, it wasn’t until late 2014, under pressure to disclose more information on its reporting, that Honda revealed that it had not submitted 1,729 claims from mid-2003 to mid-2014. If Honda had informed NHTSA of these claims in a proper and timely fashion, it is possible that NHTSA would have been able to uncover the airbag problem years earlier—potentially preventing numerous accidents, injuries, and fatalities associated with this safety crisis.