Washington - Volkswagen failed to report at least one death and three injuries involving its vehicles to a US regulator’s database designed to save lives by spotting possible defects.
Lawsuits concerning the accidents, filed over the last eight years, weren’t found in records kept by the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration in searches by Bloomberg and financial adviser Stout Risius Ross Automakers are required by law to report all claims of possible vehicle defects to the NHTSA database.
Volkswagen said October 23 it will commission an outside audit of its compliance with US safety-reporting laws. Honda and Fiat Chrysler NV’s US unit have said this year they underreported claims to the same database, and Honda was fined.
“You have to give the consumer enough of the facts to put the pieces together,” said Rebecca Lindland, senior director of commercial insights for Kelley Blue Book, the vehicle-data provider.
“If you under-report on safety, then you’re talking about actually taking people’s lives in your hands. There’s a need for transparency whether it’s good, bad or ugly.”
Questions about Volkswagen’s reporting come as the world’s biggest automaker grapples with a separate crisis over its admission in September that it purposely cheated on US pollution tests on diesel-fueled cars. The Wolfsburg, Germany- based automaker faces regulatory investigations in the US, Europe, Japan and China and a criminal probe in the US related to emissions controls.
The manufacturer outlined provisions last week totaling €6.7bn, 3% more than an initial estimate for repair costs. VW has said repeatedly that the figure doesn’t cover other spending, such as potential legal rulings.
Volkswagen rose as much as 0.6% and was trading up 0.5% at €109.85 as of 11:19, reversing a decline earlier in the day. The stock is still down 32 percent since the diesel scandal broke, valuing the company at €57bn.
The German manufacturer will coordinate its third-party audit on safety compliance with NHTSA, make the findings available to NHTSA and work with the agency on any recommendations, Jeannine Ginivan, a Herndon, Virginia-based spokeswoman, said in an email.
Volkswagen is checking its process of reporting lawsuits to the regulatory database as part of the overall audit, Ginivan said. The automaker is unable to comment on specific lawsuits, she said.
Bloomberg reviewed 13 random lawsuits filed against Volkswagen in the last 11 years. Volkswagen had reported nine of them to NHTSA. Four couldn’t be found in the database. They involved one death and three injuries described in lawsuits filed in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2014.
By law, legal complaints must be reported to NHTSA within 30 days of the end of the quarter in which an automaker was notified by a filing or other official means of a lawsuit involving an alleged safety defect.