WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating "the extent and scope of Honda's reporting failures" concerning at least two incidents tied to defective Takata airbags, the agency said on Monday.
Honda must answer questions under oath and faces up to $35 million in fines if it fails to comply with the federal investigation, according to a NHTSA special order. Honda faces a November 24 deadline to file written responses to NHTSA.
"NHTSA has received information that American Honda Motor Co. failed to report incidents involving Takata airbags, which resulted in a death or injury, and for which claims were asserted against Honda," NHTSA said in a statement posted on its Web site.
It added: "NHTSA is also concerned that Honda's reporting failures go beyond the Takata incidents. NHTSA has received information from Honda indicating that Honda may have failed to meet its TREAD reporting obligations, including reporting other deaths or injury incidents."
"In September, Honda initiated a third party audit of potential inaccuracies in its reporting of the written injury and death claims required by the TREAD Act. These claims come from owners or their representatives. We have informed the NHTSA of this review and will soon share our findings with the agency. Honda last met with the NHTSA on this matter on October 17, 2014," said Honda in a statement.
"With respect to the issue of Takata airbag inflator ruptures, Honda has maintained a dialogue with the NHTSA for several years. The information provided by Honda has included greater detail than required by the TREAD Act, including a description of the nature of the injuries and other circumstances relating to the incidents.
Honda continues to cooperate with the NHTSA on this matter."
Federal safety regulators have opened what is called an "audit query" investigation into the matter. The query involves "various Honda and Acura models," according to NHTSA. The year, make and model of the vehicles were not disclosed.
Federal law requires automakers to report every vehicle accident that involves a death or injury to NHTSA on a quarterly basis through Early Warning Reports. Manufacturers must submit Early Warning Reports to NHTSA no later than 60 days after the last day of each calendar quarter.
This is the latest development in the ongoing Takata airbag crisis involving defective parts in 7.8 million U.S. vehicles made by 10 auto companies, including more than 5 million Honda cars. The defective airbags have the potential to explode in accidents and hit vehicle occupants with shards of metal and plastic.
Takata faces a December 1 deadline for answering questions from NHTSA as well.
Edmunds says: Consumers will have to sit tight and wait for federal safety regulators to finish their work before getting answers in this growing crisis.