WASHINGTON -- Federal auto safety regulators have ordered American Honda to answer questions under oath about how it reports defect-related death and injury claims to the government after the automaker last month was accused of failing to report at least two incidents tied to defective Takata airbags.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday issued a special order to Honda -- equivalent to a subpoena -- to “investigate the extent and scope” of Honda’s failures to report deaths or injuries linked to possible auto safety defects as required under the TREAD Act.
Honda faces up to $35 million in fines if it fails to comply with NHTSA’s investigation.
“NHTSA is also concerned that Honda’s reporting failures go beyond the Takata incidents… and NHTSA has received information from Honda indicating that Honda may have failed to meet its TREAD reporting obligations, including reporting other death or injury incidents,” NHTSA wrote in documents posted to its website today.
The order is the latest development in the mushrooming crisis surrounding defective Takata airbags that may explode in accidents and spray shrapnel-like shards of plastic and metal on vehicle occupants. The defective parts have caused 10 automakers to recall more than 7 million vehicles through national and regional campaigns since 2013.
“Our focus is keeping the American public and their vehicles safe," NHTSA deputy administrator David Friedman said in a statement. "Early Warning Reporting information is one of many data sources we rely on to spot potential defects. Honda and the other automakers are legally obligated to report this information to us and failure to do so will not be tolerated.”
Honda said Oct. 15 that it hired an outside firm in September to investigate its Early Warning Reporting practices. The disclosure came after the Center for Auto Safety, a watchdog group, said Honda failed to report at least two incidents of death or injury that were linked to defective Takata airbags.
Automakers are required by law to report every vehicle accident involving a death or injury to regulators on a quarterly basis through their Early Warning Reports.
NHTSA has asked Honda to provide, by Nov. 24, written responses to questions and documents detailing how such reports are handled, to release the results of its third-party audit and disclose all death and injury claims known to the company since 2003 that were omitted from EWR reports, among other things.
There was no immediate comment from Honda or Takata.
NHTSA is probing Takata airbags installed in vehicles made by a number of other manufacturers.
Takata must answer its own set of questions from NHTSA, and faces a Dec. 1 deadline.
Since 2008, 10 global vehicle manufacturers that use Takata air bags have recalled more than 10 million cars in the United States and more than 17 million worldwide to replace inflators that have been linked to at least four deaths and numerous serious injuries.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.