The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced that the North American division of Volvo will pay a $1.5 million penalty for delaying to report safety hazards and recalls to the NHTSA.
The agency began investigating Volvo Cars North America, LLC, in 2011. Officials examined six cases from 2010 and one case from 2012, all involving recalls issued by the U.S. division of the Volvo Car Corporation. What they found, the NHTSA says, is that Volvo repeatedly violated the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, a federal law which requires automakers to report safety hazards and defects to the NHTSA within five days of discovering them.
Volvo may not be alone in taking too long to report a safety hazard. As we recently noted, Toyota is facing an investigation by the NHTSA into how quickly it reacted to evidence that it needed to expand an already massive on-going recall of Lexus and Toyota vehicles, because of a dangerous floor mat hazard.
The Volvo recalls were issued because of a variety of issues—ranging from incorrect information in driver’s operating manuals and in-vehicle labels to problems with vehicle transmissions, engine systems, and even an in-vehicle GPS unit fire hazard. As a part of the settlement with the NHTSA, Volvo agreed to change how it handles safety defects and reporting within the company, in an effort to avoid future penalties for delays.
The NHTSA hopes the Volvo penalty will send a message to other automakers. As NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said, “It's critical to the safety of everyone on our roadways that automakers promptly report safety defects – and take immediate action to resolve the issue.”
He added, “NHTSA expects all manufacturers to obey the law and address automotive safety concerns without delay.” None of the announcements about the settlement addressed whether or not Volvo’s delays caused additional accidents or injuries. The Volvo penalty will go directly into the General Fund of the U.S. Treasury.
The Volvo settlement is an important first step in helping hold automakers accountable for consumer safety, but it also seems clear that the effects of these delays are still surfacing.
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