BMW hit with $40M fine for recall violations – USA TODAY
U.S. auto-safety regulators imposed a penalty of up to $40 million on BMW North America for recall failures, making the German automaker the latest in a series of car companies that have violated federal safety rules.
BMW agreed to the penalty in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration consent order that involves an immediate $10 million fine, $10 million in spending to overhaul procedures and $20 million in deferred fines if the company fails to make changes.
As part of the deal, the company admitted to violating U.S. regulations requiring prompt reporting of defects.
The penalties revealed Monday stem from the company’s failure to tell vehicle owners promptly of recalls and from its failure to fix a version of the Mini Cooper that failed a side-impact crash test. BMW makes the Mini brand.
NHTSA will also impose an independent safety consultant to recommend changes to the automaker’s recall compliance practices and monitor the company’s performance for two years.
“NHTSA has discovered multiple instances in which BMW failed its obligations to its customers, to the public and to safety,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “The consent order NHTSA has issued not only penalizes this misconduct, it requires BMW to take a series of steps to remedy the practices and procedures that led to these violations.”
The penalties come amid a litany of safety scandals in the auto industry. NHTSA has penalized General Motors and Fiat Chrysler over the last two years for their own failures to fix vehicles expeditiously and notify safety officials promptly of defects. Amid pressure on automakers, the agency has faced public scrutiny for its own failures to catch certain defects.
BMW said in a statement that it “is committed to further improving its recall processes to better serve its customers” and that it “respects the role of NHTSA and looks forward to working with them to develop solutions for the future.”
NHTSA’s probe started with an investigation into BMW’s failure to meet regulatory standards on side-impact crash protection with 2014 and 2015 Mini Cooper vehicles.
The agency said it noticed on October 2014 that a two-door hardtop version of the vehicle didn’t meet protocol.
“The company responded that the vehicle was listed with an incorrect weight and would pass the test if conducted at the proper weight rating, 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,” NHTSA said in a statement.
But in July 2015, NHTSA said a crash test showed that the vehicle still failed side-impact crash tests. It then discovered that the German automaker had not fixed the vehicles as it had promised.
It also discovered additional recall reporting violations during its subsequent investigation.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.