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Volvo will pay embarrassing safety fine

Volvo, which stakes its name on safety leadership, will pay huge fine for not reporting safety defects.

In a press release today the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), part of the US Department of Transportation, said that Volvo Cars North America LLC will pay a hefty fine for not reporting safety defects and non-compliances in a timely manner. Automakers paying fines like this is not unknown, but what makes this unusual is that Volvo has for years marketed itself as a safety-first, last, and always automaker.

Volvo has agreed to pay a fine of $1.5 million dollars to settle the claim that it didn’t report safety defects quickly enough. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act, administered by HHTSA, requires that automakers report known safety defects in one working week of discovering the issue and then issue a recall. The investigation of Volvo by HHTSA was not for one incident. NHTSA looked at a total of seven Volvo recalls from 2010 through 2012. Commenting on the issue 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. NHTSA expects all manufacturers to obey the law and address automotive safety concerns without delay." The agency felt after its investigation that Volvo did not report safety defects that it knew about within the legal five day window as required by federal law. It should be noted for fairness that Volvo's fines are small by comparison to other automakers who paid signifiantly larger fines, for significantly worse issues.

Earlier this year the US congress held hearings regarding proposed legislation that would have increased fines on automakers that don’t report safety issues in a timely manner. In a joint letter sent to congress a coalition of automotive groups wrote “The proposed increases are so out of proportion either to the current penalty structure or the penalty structure for other manufacturers under the Consumer Product Safety Act as to appear unfairly punitive. The proposed increases should be scaled back to a more appropriate level."

As part of the settlement Volvo has agreed to make internal changes to its safety defect reporting procedures. At the time of this publication there was no mention of the penalty, or statement by Volvo, on the Volvo US press site, Facebook page, or Twitter page.

Picture from Volvo media archive.