The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently investigating claims on failures of Honda Motor Co. to properly report cases that involved exploding air bags by Takata Corp.
Honda also allegedly failed to comply with federal requirements on reporting fatalities and injuries that are connected to other issues.
The agency has the authority to impose a fine of up to $35 million on car companies that fail to file proper and timely reports on fatalities and injuries.
Automobile manufacturers are required to submit "early warning reports" regarding fatalities and injuries involving the vehicles they produce. Additionally, there is a requirement for car companies, under the federal TREAD Act, to file reports for defects that could compromise passenger safety.
"Early warning reporting information is one of many data sources we rely on to spot potential defects. Honda and the other auto makers are legally obligated to report this information to us, and failure to do so will not be tolerated," said David Friedman, the acting administrator for the NHTSA.
In the inquiry that the agency posted on Nov. 3, the NHTSA said that it has obtained information on the failure of Honda to properly report cases involving defective air bags by Takata that have led to deaths or injuries.
The NHTSA also said in the filing that there is concern within the agency that the failure of Honda to report such incidents may not be limited to the cases that involve Takata air bags. In fact, the NHTSA has also obtained information that Honda could be in violation of the TREAD Act for not reporting other incidents stemming from other defects or issues that have led to fatalities or injuries.
In a statement, Honda responded by saying that it has launched an independent audit back in September for any possible inaccuracies regarding the company's reporting on fatalities and injuries. Honda added that, in connection with defective Takata air bags, the company has been in constant communication with the NHTSA for the past several years.
Honda added that the data it provides in its disclosures of vehicle defects and issues contains even more detail than what is required under the TREAD Act.
The investigation of Honda by the NHTSA is spurred by Center for Auto Safety's executive director Clarence Ditlow's accusations that Honda is "systematically underreporting death and injury claims against the company."
Ditlow referred to reports on the settlement by Honda of a lawsuit from the family of Ashley Parham, who died in May 2009 after the air bag in her 2001 Honda Accord exploded. The incident was not filed as a death report to the NHTSA by Honda.
The group of Ditlow found that for the year 2013, General Motors reported 1,716 claims for fatalities and injuries, while Toyota reported 1,774 claims. Honda, on the other hand, only reported 28 claims.
For the first quarter of the year, General Motors reported 505 claims; Toyota reported 377 claims while Honda reported only 6 claims.