On Friday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that BMW of North America, LLC “agreed to pay $3 million in civil penalties in response to the agency’s assertion that the automaker failed to comply with” federal laws dictating how fast safety defects and noncompliance issues are announced. These requirements are part of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and help ensure drivers do not continue operating unsafe vehicles after defects are identified.
The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was originally enacted in 1966 as a response to the growing number of vehicle injuries and fatalities in the U.S. at that time. This act has since been recodified as 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301 and has led to a significant reduction in motor vehicle deaths.
Last week’s press release explains this fine comes after a December 2010 NHTSA analysis of 16 BMW recalls from that year. Some of the defects prompting these recalls included the following:
- Incorrect component labeling
- Windshield bonding defects
- Faulty fuel level sensors
- Fuel pump failure
- Front motorcycle brake line issues
After launching its December investigation into BMW vehicle and motorcycle recalls, the NHTSA found evidence leading investigators to believe that the automaker failed to report “known safety defect[s] within five days.” This five-day reporting window is required by law and is generally followed by a prompt recall. The press release quotes NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, who emphasized that his agency “expects all manufacturers to address automobile safety issues quickly and in a forthright manner.”
According to the initial investigation report, NHTSA investigators felt that BMW appeared “to maintain a practice, by design or habit, in which it provides little information in its initial filings.” The document explains that of the 16 reports filed by the automaker “in only 6 was it able to tell the agency the number of vehicles affected by the defect or noncompliance and expected to be recalled.”
The timeliness query (TQ) investigation goes on to emphasize the unacceptable delay seen in the automaker’s reporting, saying that “it has taken BMW over 30 days, on average, to provide required information, including such fundamental information as population figures.”
In addition to agreeing to pay the $3 million civil penalty, BMW of North America, LLC and its parent company, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, also agreed to introduce internal changes to the process they use to decide on a recall. These changes will help ensure future BMW safety concerns are reported to the federal government and consumers sooner.