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German Car Maker Agrees to Pay Historic $3 Million Penalty

Casey Woodruff

It is the largest safety-related fine issued by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (more commonly known as BMW) has agreed to pay it.

The NHTSA is the U.S. government agency tasked with investigating automobile defects and regulating recalls. The fine announced earlier this month stems from a December 2010 analysis in which the NHTSA reviewed 16 BMW recalls from the same year for car and motorcycle defects that included:

  • Front brake line issues in motorcycles
  • Fuel pump failure
  • Faulty fuel level sensors
  • Component labeling errors
  • Windshield bonding defects

Investigators found evidence during their analysis indicating the German automaker failed to report known safety defects within the mandatory five-day reporting window. In fact, BMW took, on average, more than 30 days to provide the required information to the NHTSA. These delays placed Illinois drivers and passengers in danger of potentially serious accidents, injuries or even death.

For the delays in reporting the auto-safety defects and recalls of nearly 340,000 vehicles, BMW has been issued a $3 million U.S. civil penalty. According to BMW company spokesman David Buchko in a statement given to Bloomberg Businessweek, the company has also agreed to introduce changes to its internal recall process to ensure future safety concerns are reported sooner.

“It’s critical to the safety of the driving public that defects and recalls are reported in short order,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland in a February 10, 2012 press release. “NHTSA expects all manufacturers to address automotive safety issues quickly and in a forthright manner.”

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