Honda Audit May Explain Death, Injury Report Discrepancies

Oct 16, 2014 03:30 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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Honda has been undergoing a third-party audit that started in September to determine if death and injury claims related to air bag failures have been underreported to federal regulators.

The automaker will reveal the audit's findings to the National Highway Traffic Administration soon, Bloomberg News reported. The agency is in talks with Honda to discuss "concerns about their EWR reporting, and is reviewing information to determine compliance," an NHTSA spokeswoman told Bloomberg. "Based on NHTSA's open investigation, the agency will take appropriate action, including expanding the scope of the recall if warranted." 

The problems in Honda vehicles stem from the problematic Takata air bag inflators that have afflicted other automakers as well, including Fiat Chrysler and Toyota. Japanese supplier Takata's biggest customer, Honda has issued nine recalls for six million vehicles altogether in connection with the air bags, which can explode in the event of a crash.

A law passed in 2000 stipulates that automakers must file quarterly reports to the NHTSA that detail "fatalities, injuries, lawsuits, warranty claims and customer complaints," according to Bloomberg.

Honda apparently excluded verbal claims in NHTSA reports until last month, which would account for its low accident and fatality numbers in comparison with other automakers.

"It is our understanding that some manufacturers choose to include these types of verbal claims, and that these constitute the majority of the injury-and-death claims that they report to the NHTSA," Honda said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. "We believe this practice accounts for the vast majority of the difference between the total number of injury-and-death claims reported by Honda compared to certain other manufacturers."

Honda opened up about the audit after watchdog group The Center for Auto Safety accused the company on Wednesday of failing to report at least two fatal incidents to the NHTSA. The center urged the U.S. Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation into the matter.

Last month, a New York Times report found that Honda was aware of incidents with exploding air bags at least a decade ago. Honda failed to investigate the matter and put off recalling vehicles equipped with Takata air bags until 2008.

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