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Honda Fined $70 Million For Underreporting Safety Issues

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Honda has been fined a record $70 million. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says Honda failed to report claims of deaths or injuries in its vehicles, as well as some warranty claims. As NPR's Sonari Glinton reports, this comes after a record year of fines and recalls in the auto industry.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: To understand why this news about Honda's important, I've got to do a quick bit of history. Back in the early 2,000s after Ford Motor Company and Firestone tires were embroiled in a roll-over recall, Congress passed a law called the TREAD Act. It requires what's called an Early Warning Reporting. Sean Kane, a safety advocate and researcher explains EWR, Early Warning Reporting.

SEAN KANE: The EWR requires manufacturers to submit death, injury, property damage, warranty and other data to the government on a quarterly basis about vehicle defects, and it's an honor system. And it depends on truthful reporting.

GLINTON: The idea is that by gathering and reporting that info early on, car makers can spot patterns, fix defects and prevent massive recalls. Honda is paying $70 million in fines because it failed to do that for more than 1,700 complaints that its vehicles caused death or injury over the span of 11 years. Now, this all came out late last year during investigations into defective air bags. That made regulators, members of Congress and safety advocates question just how thorough car makers' reporting has been. For Honda's part, the company blamed its underreporting on, quote, "inadvertent data entry or computer programming errors."

Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.