Honda underreported 1,729 deaths and injuries
Honda failed to report 1,729 serious accidents resulting in injuries or deaths to U.S. safety regulators.
The company knew about the accidents that took place between 2003 and 2014, but blamed data entry and computer programming errors for the failure in a regulatory filing Monday.
Automakers are required to report any death or injury claims to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on a quarterly basis. The automakers and safety regulator both are supposed to analyze reports of such incidents so that it can be determined if there is a fault in vehicles that should prompt a recall.
The underreporting is likely to cost the Japanese automaker tens of millions of dollars in fines from federal safety regulators.
The news comes as Honda finds itself at the center of a recall of more than 6 million cars worldwide with a deadly Takata airbags, which can explode and hit passengers with shrapnel. Honda has acknowledged at least four people who were killed by incidents involving the exploding airbags. The issue also impacts nine other automakers, including Ford, General Motors and Toyota.
Eight of the 1,729 accidents that Honda failed to report to NHTSA involved Takata airbags. One of those accidents, which the company said took place on May 27, 2009, killed a driver named Ashley Parham in Midwest City, Oklahoma.
Among the seven other accidents not reported by Honda was a Sept. 1, 2013 accident that sent shrapnel into the right eye of Air Force Lt. Stephanie Erdman, seriously damaging her vision. Erdman testified about that injury before a Senate committee last week.
The mistakes have come to light after NHTSA asked Honda to conduct an internal review of its reporting process.
NHTSA has not announced whether it will fine the automaker over the underreporting. But it can impose a maximum $35 million fine if a company does not properly report information about accidents involving their cars. GM was forced to pay that amount of money because of a 10-year delay in reporting a faulty ignition switch which has since been tied to at least 35 deaths.
It is possible Honda could be subject to multiple $35 million fines because its underreporting involves many separate types of problems tied to the 1,729 serious accidents. Toyota ended up paying what was then a maximum $16 million to $17 million fine four separate times between 2010 and 2012 for problems related the unintended acceleration of its cars.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said the $35 million limit for the fine amounts to a “rounding error” for a major automaker which makes billions a year in profits. His department is asking Congress to raise the limit for a fine to $300 million.