NHTSA’s Daily Fines For Takata Corp.

The Transportation Department announced that it would start fining Takata Corp. $14,000 per day for violating two Department of Transportation orders. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx made statements in Richmond, Virginia on the final leg of his Grow America Express bus tour through the Southeast, while NHTSA sent Takata a letter about its failure to cooperate with the Department throughout the Federal investigation into the company’s defective airbags. The story is receiving extensive national coverage in the top newspapers and has a broad distribution in wire reports, as well as regional outlets and local TV broadcasts, although national broadcasts coverage was lacking. The DOT decision is being treated as an “escalation,” as the New York Times and the Associated Press put it, in the Takata investigation, an “aggressive” move, to quote Bloomberg News.
The New York Times (2/21, Tabuchi, Ivory, Subscription Publication, 9.97M) reports, the NHTSA letter to Takata accused the company of not reacting “fully or truthfully” to the DOT orders to hand over documents about the airbags and burying “information that it is legally obligated to supply,” as well as not “being cooperative in aiding N.H.T.S.A.’s ongoing investigation of a potentially serious safety defect.” Takata denied that it was circumventing or stalling in the investigation. The New York Times points out, too, that Foxx used the penalties as a talking point in “promoting stronger auto safety rules.”
Bloomberg News (2/21, Plungis, 2.94M) reports that Foxx stated, “We are using the maximum available penalty until Takata finds itself in compliance,” adding that “We will not tolerate this.” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said that transportation officials “still don’t know the root cause” of the airbag defect. According to the story, the penalties bring up the question of “how transparent and proactive automakers are when it comes to dealing with potential safety defects,” which is why the Transportation Department is requesting more resources from Congress. Additionally, the Administration wants to give NHTSA the ability to fine automakers up to $300 million.
Foxx stated, “Safety is a shared responsibility and Takata’s failure to fully cooperate with our investigation is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Reuters (2/21, Chiacu) reports.
The AP (2/21, Lowy, Krisher) reports, the defective airbag inflators are “in cars made by 10 companies.” This new “escalation in the public fight between NHTSA and Takata” also included a warning in the letter that Takata employees could face depositions or other court action from the Justice Department.
The Wall Street Journal (2/21, Spector, Subscription Publication, 5.67M) points out that the fine is twice as much as what DOT made General Motors pay last year for its own recall scandal. NHTSA’s letter to Takata referred to a meeting with the company on February 4 where Takata was supposed to explain the documents it had submitted, claiming that the meeting yielded no results.
Takata faulty airbags continue to have ramifications for Honda. USA Today (2/23, 10.32M) reports “Honda has joined other automakers in recalling cars with Takata air bags” and 17 million airbags from all brands have been recalled since 2008. USA Today says “air bag issues shows no signs of going away anytime soon” as on Friday, Federal officials announced they will “levy fines of $14,000 a day against Takata for refusing to cooperate with a probe” by the NHTSA.
The AP (2/23, Kurtenbach) reports US regulators have “fined Honda $70 million, which was the largest civil penalty levied against an automaker, for not reporting” 1,729 complaints that its vehicles caused injuries and deaths, and also for failing to report warranty claims. The AP also says Takata airbag maker refused the NHTSA’s “demand to issue a nationwide recall of driver’s side air bag inflators, though automakers have recalled the cars on their own.”
Bloomberg News (2/23, Ma, 2.94M) reports “Honda Motor Co.’s Takanobu Ito will step aside as president of Japan’s third-largest carmaker after quality lapses led to record vehicle recalls last year.”
Jaguar Land Rover puts out recall on tens of thousands of vehicles for air bags defect. ABC News (2/21, 3.41M) reported online that Jaguar Land Rover North America issued a recall on “61,793 vehicles because the front, passenger-side air bag may be disabled if a lightweight adult sits in the seat,” affecting certain Range Rover vehicles between the 2013 and 2015 model years.
The AP (2/22) reports with similar coverage.