BMW hit with $40 million U.S. penalty for safety lapses

(Reuters) - U.S. auto safety regulators on Monday fined BMW $10 million, part of a $40 million civil settlement over the German automaker’s safety lapses.

A BMW emblem is pictured at the 2015 New York International Auto Show in New York City, in this April 2, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/Files

The fine is the second paid by BMW since 2012 and the latest in a series of civil penalties imposed on major automakers by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Under the settlement, BMW admitted it did not comply with minimum crash protection standards, failed to notify owners of recalls in a timely fashion and failed to provide accurate information about its recalls to NHTSA.

The NHTSA fined BMW $3 million in 2012 for similar problems.

The settlement ends a NHTSA investigation into whether the company failed to issue a recall within five days of learning that its 2014 and 2015 Mini Cooper models failed to meet regulatory minimums for side-impact crash protection.

The $40 million settlement includes a $10 million fine, a requirement that the company spend at least $10 million meeting the order’s performance obligations, and $20 million in deferred penalties if the company fails to comply with the order or commits other safety violations.

BMW agreed to hire a government-approved independent safety consultant and disclose updated procedures to NHTSA. The agency has required a number of automakers to agree to independent monitors or retain outside consultants to improve safety procedures as part of settlements.

BMW said in a statement it agreed to settle the allegations as part of a two-year consent order. “The company is committed to further improving its recall processes to better serve its customers,” it said.

“The requirement to launch recalls and inform consumers in a timely fashion when a safety defect or noncompliance is discovered is fundamental to our system for protecting the traveling public. This is a must-do,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.

The agency ordered BMW to create a plan to deter dealers from selling unrepaired, recalled vehicles after an agency investigator was able to buy a new vehicle that had been recalled but not fixed, a violation of U.S. law.

Earlier this month, the agency fined Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV $70 million for failing to disclose vehicle crash death and injury reports. The automaker also paid $70 million in July to resolve allegations it mishandled nearly two dozen recall campaigns covering more than 11 million vehicles.

In January, Honda Motor Co paid $70 million to the NHTSA in fines for failing to disclose death and injury reports.

Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe