July 6, 2012 at 3:55 PM ET
Volvo’s shiny halo as an automotive safety advocates has been tarnished a bit by federal regulators who allege the Swedish maker illegally delayed action on seven separate recalls.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is fining Volvo $1.5 million for the delays which involved a total of 32,000 vehicles in 2010 and 2012. Some of the recalls were relatively minor, such as one involving incorrect tire pressure labels, but others were more significant, including problems with vehicle stalling and defective airbags.
Though it officially denies any wrongdoing, Volvo has agreed to pay the fines and stated that it has “taken steps to improve the review process and analysis of potential quality and safety issues with our vehicles.”
The law requires a manufacturer to act in a “timely” manner, described as no more than five business days, once it discovers a safety problem that would trigger a recall.
NHTSA can levy fines of up to $17.35 million in the event of an improper delay and it struck Toyota with a series of fines for the questionable handling of several safety-related issues in 2009 and 2010 – including the months-long delay in ordering a recall for potentially sticker accelerator pedals. That problem eventually led the Japanese giant to call back millions of vehicles and to temporarily close a number of its assembly lines while it came up with a fix for the problem.
BMW, meanwhile, was slapped with a $3 million fine, earlier this year, due to delays in 16 separate recalls – the most serious involving BMW 5 and 6-Series cars from 2004-2010 and 7-Series models from 2002-2008.
NHTSA has been cracking down on manufacturers in the wake of the Toyota safety scandal. The federal safety agency was itself embarrassed when a Toyota document leaked out suggesting the maker had talked compliant NHTSA regulators out of ordering a recall that would have cost the company several $100 million.
A new U.S. transportation bill will double the potential fines manufacturers face for delaying recall actions.
More money and business news: