Channel | Auto Industry News

Safety Group Wants Honda Fined Over Recall

WASHINGTON — An auto safety advocacy group wants the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to fine Honda Motor Co. over its recall of more than 2.7 million vehicles for an airbag defect that’s been linked to two deaths.

The Center for Auto Safety said in a letter Monday to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it wants a civil penalty against Honda “for failing to initiate a timely recall of defective driver airbag inflators that rupture and send shrapnel into the driver,” reported The Detroit News.

Honda didn’t immediately comment on the letter Monday.

On Friday, Honda said it was recalling 876,000 vehicles in the United States for airbag problems. It’s the fifth separate recall for the issue since 2008.

In total, Honda has recalled 2.53 million vehicles in the United States — and 2.7 million worldwide — over faulty airbags that could injure drivers in what is Honda’s largest-ever recall.

The airbags have been linked to about 20 incidents.

Honda said it will replace airbags in 272,779 2001-2002 vehicles because some airbags may inflate with too much pressure.

That pressure can cause the inflator to rupture. As a result, metal fragments could pass through the airbag cushion, causing injury or death to vehicle occupants, Honda said.

Honda is also recalling another 603,421 vehicles to find 640 replacement parts.

This recall now includes 2001-02 Accord, 2001-03 Civic, 2001-03 Odyssey, 2002-03 CR-V, 2003 Pilot, 2002-03 Acura 3.2 TL and 2003 Acura 3.2 CL vehicles.

The latest recall was prompted by a crash and injury in August in Florida in a Honda that hadn’t been recalled, Honda spokesman Chris Martin said Friday. That prompted Honda to reassess whether it had recalled all potentially faulty airbags.

Martin said Honda is now confident it has found all potentially faulty vehicles.

At least 18 injuries and two deaths have been linked to the issue, including an 18-year-old Oklahoma high school student, Ashley Parham, who died in May 2009 when metal shards hit her after the airbag deployed in her 2001 Accord.

“Honda’s submissions to NHTSA fail to disclose what it knew and when in dragging out the recall,” the group said.

A NHTSA spokeswoman, Lynda Tran, said the agency has received the letter. “We have received the letter and will respond accordingly,” she said.

In August 2009, NHTSA sent a letter to Honda asking questions about whether the automaker had recalled enough vehicles for the issue.

Honda said it is aware of several incidents related to this recall and expansions, and is announcing this further recall expansion to encourage all owners of included vehicles to take their vehicle to an authorized dealer.

It is very rare for NHTSA to seek to impose civil fines on automakers for failing to recall vehicles in a timely manner.

In 2010, Toyota Motor Corp. agreed to pay $48.8 million in federal fines, settling three federal investigations that found the automaker delayed recalling about 6 million vehicles. In total, the three fines are the largest ever in U.S. history.

In 2004, General Motors paid the previously largest fine — $1 million — to settle charges that it failed to conduct a timely recall to correct a safety defect. The problem involved windshield wiper failure in 581,344 vehicles manufactured in 2002 and 2003.

Under the law, the current maximum fine for failing to recall vehicles in a timely manner is $17.35 million.

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