Honda admits under-reporting serious U.S. accidents since 2003

Tue Nov 25, 2014 1:35am EST
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By Paul Lienert and Jessica Dye

DETROIT/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote) failed to notify U.S. safety regulators of 1,729 claims of injuries and deaths related to accidents in its vehicles since 2003, the automaker acknowledged on Monday.

The Japanese automaker said in a statement that its count of underreported claims came from a third-party audit. Honda cited "various errors related to data entry" and said it used an "overly narrow interpretation" of its legal reporting requirements. It said it is taking steps to remedy these shortcomings.

"I haven't got a detailed report yet, but it seems there were a lot of administrative mistakes on the ground," Honda CEO Takanobu Ito told reporters at a corporate event in southern Japan on Tuesday.

Honda's U.S. arm responded to a Nov. 3 order from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seeking an explanation for why Honda failed to fulfill its legal obligation to report deaths and injuries, especially those involving air bags.

Honda and Japanese supplier Takata Corp (7312.T: Quote) have been at the center of investigations of defects in Takata air bags. Since 2008, Honda has recalled more than 7.5 million U.S. cars because defects can cause the inflators in some Takata air bags to rupture, spraying metal shards into vehicle occupants.

Asked what Honda had made of an early, pre-recall Takata air bag accident, in 2004, Ito said: "We don't have knowledge of inflators but ... it was difficult to foresee that it would expand" to similar accidents or recalls.

NHTSA sent a second order to Honda on Nov. 5, seeking details and documents related to the air bags and inflators.

Honda sent its response on Monday to NHTSA's first order. A summary of that response was read out by Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda North America, on a conference call with reporters, though he declined to take questions. Schostek testified last week at a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Takata air bags.   Continued...

A Honda dealership sign is shown at a car lot in Carlsbad, California November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake