BMW just got a hefty $40 million fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) because it failed to meet safety requirements with its 2014-2015 Mini Cooper models.

Safety regulators concluded that BMW moved too slowly in fixing vehicles that failed federal crash tests, while also failing to send proper recall information to the agency.

Consequently, the NHTSA has now slapped the German automaker with a $40 million civil penalty, as well as a set of performance requirements, noting that the measure applies because BMW North America violated NHTSA regulations and the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

After receiving a Consent Order, BMW reckoned that it has indeed violated requirements related to the timely recall of cars that failed to meet standards for minimum crash protection. The automaker also acknowledged that it failed to issue timely notifications to owners of vehicles affected by a recall, and failed to submit accurate recall information to the NHTSA.

This is not the first time that BMW finds itself in hot water over such issues. Back in 2012, for instance, the NHTSA issued another civil penalty to the automaker and the violations involved then were along the same lines as the ones in question now.

Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation Secretary, explained that on several occasions the NHTSA found that BMW did not rise up to its obligations to the public, its customers, and safety in general.

With this in mind, the NHTSA issued the aforementioned Consent Order to BMW with two main goals: penalize the misconduct, and prompt the carmaker to implement the necessary measures to bring its practices and procedures on the right track to avoid similar violations in the future.

The Consent Order stems from an NHTSA probe into BMW's failure to issue a recall within five days of finding out that Mini Cooper models from 2014 and 2015 did not meet minimum regulatory requirements regarding side-impact crash protection.

Back in October 2014, a BMW Mini 2 Door Hardtop Cooper failed a crash test that aimed to check whether the car complied with minimum crash protection requirements. The vehicle failed the test, but the automaker argued at the time that the real reason behind it was in fact an incorrectly-listed weight. Otherwise, the automaker said the car would have no trouble passing the test if conducted at the correct weight rating.

Nevertheless, BMW agreed then to recall the vehicles so it could fix the incorrect weight rating on the cars' Tire Information Placard. In addition, BMW also promised a voluntary service campaign to add extra protection for side impacts.

If it all sounds like just a big misunderstanding so far, things are not quite so. Earlier this year, back in July, the NHTSA conducted another crash test for the vehicle, this time with the corrected weight rating and the extra side-impact protection. It should have passed with flying colors according to BMW, but the vehicle failed the test again.

"The requirement to launch recalls and inform consumers in a timely fashion when a safety defect or noncompliance is discovered is fundamental to our system for protecting the traveling public. This is a must-do," highlighted Mark Rosekind, NHTSA Administrator.

Rosekind further underlined that safety should be the top priority for BMW, yet the NHTSA had to penalize the carmaker for the second time in just three years. Not only does BMW get a $40 million civil penalty, but it must also meet several other performance requirements.

First of all, BMW has to retain an independent safety consultant, approved by the NHTSA, to help develop and implement the best practices for fully complying with the NHTSA and the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. BMW should report those best practices to the NHTSA.

At the same time, BMW should also submit a monthly written report to the NHTSA on issues related to safety or compliance, after evaluating and reviewing them under the guidance of that independent consultant.

The automaker must also pilot a new program to determine whether it can use data analytics capabilities to discover trends for emerging defects related to safety.

Lastly, BMW must have a solid plan in place to prevent BMW dealers from selling new cars with safety defects that need to receive fixes. The NHTSA found it necessary to specifically impose this requirement because during its investigation into the whole matter, an NHTSA representative managed to buy a new vehicle from a BMW dealer although it was involved in a safety recall.

BMW agreed to avoid making the same mistakes in the future, improve its practices and procedures, keep the NHTSA informed regarding its progress and practices, and focus more on safety.

The NHTSA has been cracking down on carmakers and boosting its efforts for safer vehicles and fewer issues, requiring a number of automakers aside BMW to hire independent consultants and up the quality of their safety procedures.

With the latest settlement, BMW also vowed to improve the way it handles its recall processes.

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