Federal safety regulators continue to crack down on automakers that fail to report problems quickly as BMW agreed to a possible $40 million fine for issues related to its Mini brand.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration levied the punishment after the automaker failed tell owners about a recall of the Mini Cooper that failed a side-impact airbag crash test.
The company agreed to a $10 million penalty and to spend $10 million correcting the problem. BMW could be assessed an additional $20 million if it doesn’t meet certain criteria for fixing the problems long-term, according to NHTSA.
The agency is appointing an independent safety consultant to recommend changes to the automaker’s recall compliance practices and oversee the company’s performance for two years.
“The company is committed to further improving its recall processes to better serve its customers,” the maker said in a statement. “BMW NA respects the role of NHTSA and looks forward to working with them to develop solutions for the future.”
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The agency began looking into the problem when the 2014 and 2015 Mini Cooper two-door hardtop failed to meet regulatory standards for side-impact crash protection. It asked the company for more information about the problem.
“The company responded that the vehicle was listed with an incorrect weight and would pass the test if conducted at the proper weight rating,” said NHTSA in a statement, “but agreed to conduct a recall to correct the incorrect weight rating on the vehicle’s tire information placard and to conduct a voluntary service campaign, short of a recall, to add additional side-impact protection.”
However, the vehicle still failed to meet the standard in a July 2015 crash test, meaning the company didn’t live up to its promise to fix the problem. It also discovered additional recall reporting violations during its subsequent investigation.
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“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,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.
“For the second time in three years, BMW has been penalized for failing to meet that obligation. The company must take this opportunity to reform its procedures and its culture to put safety where it belongs: at the top of its priority list.”
The NHTSA fined BMW $3 million in 2012 for similar problems. BMW’s in good company when it comes to NHTSA’s effort to improve reporting procedures. Fiat Chrysler just got slammed with $175 million in fines for more than 20 separate incidents in the past six months.
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In addition to the fines, former Transportation Secretary Rodney O’Neill has been installed to supervise the company’s safety reporting and changes to its procedures to ensure the maker meets federal requirements. In January, Honda paid $70 million for failing to disclose death and injury reports. General Motors has also been tagged with heavy fines in recent years for similar issues.