TORRANCE, California — Honda said it failed to report 1,729 claims of injuries or deaths linked to possible vehicle safety defects, also known as "early warning reports," to federal safety regulators since 2003.
The early warning reports are designed to help the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identify potential public safety threats.
The under-reported Honda claims include eight incidents linked to defective Takata airbag inflators. One of the claims involved a fatality and seven of them involved injuries. But Honda said all eight incidents were disclosed to NHTSA by other means.
"Even though eight Takata airbag inflator ruptures were not included in Honda's TREAD report, NHTSA was aware of all these ruptures either through notification by Honda or through NHTSA's own records," said Honda in a statement.
Honda said "inadvertent data entry and computer programming errors" were responsible, in part, for the under-reporting of serious incidents. The automaker also said that it made mistakes "due to a misunderstanding of the TREAD Act."
The reporting errors came to light in a third-party audit that looked into shortcomings in Honda's early warning reporting, which is required under a 2000 federal law known as the TREAD Act. The act requires automakers to submit quarterly reports to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration detailing all known incidents of injuries or deaths that may be linked to safety defects.
In a media conference call on Monday, Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda North America, said the audit revealed "difficult facts about where we did not meet our obligations."
He added that Honda pledged to "ensure that it doesn't happen again."
The automaker outlined several steps it is taking to prevent under-reporting in the future.
The steps include fixing computer-coding problems that led to reporting failures. Honda said it will voluntarily include both written and oral claims of injuries or death in all future early warning reports.
It is not clear whether NHTSA will impose fines of up to $35 million on Honda. Schostek said NHTSA received the report of the Honda audit on Monday. The audit is part of Honda's response to a special order from NHTSA into Honda's compliance with the reporting rules of the TREAD Act.
The TREAD Act revamped auto recall procedures following the Ford-Firestone tire crisis. The legislation was intended to improve communication between auto manufacturers and the federal government and increase the NHTSA's ability to collect and analyze information about vehicle defects.
Schostek would not take questions from reporters during the conference call and subsequent questions by Edmunds to Honda about the audit went unanswered.
Schostek is one of several auto executives expected to testify on December 3 during a U.S. House hearing on the Takata recall crisis.
Edmunds says: This is all about accountability and taking the necessary steps to reassure anxious consumers.