Honda admits to not reporting deaths injuries to watchdog

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Earlier this month, it was discovered that as many as eight million US cars might have been fitted with a faulty airbag container, which has the potential to injure or even kill the driver in the event of a crash. This represented a massive slip up in the testing of all of these vehicles, as well as a failing on behalf of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Clearly there were more skeletons in the closet of auto-makers in the US however, as Honda has now admitted that it failed to report as many as 1,700 accidents involving its vehicles to US car safety regulators over the last decade.

As FT reports, Honda has already come under fire from watchdogs and the government for its handling of the Takata airbag recall, of which six million of its vehicles are said to be affected by. Now the Japanese firm stands accused of knowing about these airbag defects for as many as 11 years without catching on, which is part of the reason it might have covered up the deaths and injuries of so many of its customers.

However Honda claims this isn’t some company wide conspiracy, as it has been looking into why this happened too. It recently discovered the lack of reporting through its own initiated auditing, conducted by a third party. It claims that the reason for the lack of reports on these incidents, was due to “inadvertent data entry and computer programming errors”, rather than anyone trying to hide them.

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Image source: Hector Alejandro

Regardless of the reasoning however, Honda could find itself in hot water, as the 2000 US Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act specifically states that all automakers are required to report injuries and deaths in their vehicles on a quarterly basis. This is to help indicate whether there is a potential fault with a particular vehicle or part that could be used across the range. Clearly that didn’t happen in this instance and that contributed to it taking years to discover that Takata airbags were potentially dangerous.

“Honda takes these findings extremely seriously. We are taking immediate corrective action, and we continue to fully co-operate with the NHTSA to resolve this matter,” said Rick Schostek, Honda executive VP in statement.

He also stated for the record, that only eight of the alleged 1,700 incidents that weren’t reported involved a Takata airbag being deployed. He did not however reveal whether the airbag’s container was responsible for any further injuries beyond the initial impact.

Honda vehicles are being recalled in Japan as well as in the US, along with other manufactures there that used Takata’s airbags. Around two million have so far been recalled, with Japanese and US regulators both looking into the company and why it was able to install such a faulty product (that warps in humidity, causing a potential explosion instead of an expansion when the airbag is triggered ) into so many vehicles for so many years without anyone knowing.

The cost of replacing all of the airbags is going to cost auto-makers tens of millions of dollars, but it may cost Honda and Takata a lot more if they are found to have known about the fault before now.

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.