BMW Mini under fire for failing to act quickly on safety problems

Posted on 30 Sep 2015 by Tim Brown
Three millionth Mini rolled off production line in 2014 - image courtesy of BMW Mini.
Three millionth Mini rolled off production line in 2014 - image courtesy of BMW Mini.

In a what has become a fortnight European car brands would rather forget, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has now set its sights on BMW for failing to properly implement a recall on its 2014 Mini Cooper model.

In October 2014 the NHTSA performed a side impact test on 2014 Mini 2 Door Hardtop Coopers. The subject Mini Cooper vehicles did not pass the test and adequately protect a female dummy, specifically with respect to the spine acceleration value for the 5th percentile female dummy.

In January 2015 BMW verbally committed that it would conduct a service campaign to add padding to the rear side panels of MY 2015 Mini 2 Door Hardtop Cooper models. However, BMW never initiated the service campaign and failed to inform NHTSA of its failure to do so.

In early July 2015, the Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance performed a subsequent test on a 2015 Mini 2 Door Hardtop Cooper. BMW technicians had installed a foam pad in the rear side panels of the Cooper model vehicle prior to the test, as the company had stipulated it would do back in January.

The test of the Mini 2 Door Hardtop Cooper with the additional padding passed the test. However, according to the NHTSA, this was the only vehicle on which the service campaign was performed and thus was not representative of in-use vehicles. A second test of a Cooper S that did not receive additional padding failed the test.

The agency said it is concerned that BMW knew about side crash problems and should have taken action sooner. “It appears from a review of NHTSA’s databases that BMW may have failed to submit recall communications to NHTSA in a timely manner,” the NHTSA website said.

A Mini spokeswoman said BMW will “respond to NHTSA as appropriate.”

NHTSA has the authority to fine an automaker for failing to act quickly on safety problems or failing to communicate with the agency.

Fiat Chrysler also in the cross hairs

In July, Fiat Chrysler was lumped with a $105m fine for recall lapses spanning nearly two dozen recalls affecting more than 11 million vehicles, including older Jeeps with rear gas tanks linked to numerous fatal fires.

The scope of Fiat Chrysler’s failure to handle recalls efficiently deepened Tuesday as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration accused the automaker of widely under-reporting the number of deaths in accidents involving its vehicles.

The revelation of the discrepancy — which NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind called “significant”.

Fiat Chrysler said in a statement that it “takes this issue extremely seriously and will continue to cooperate with NHTSA to resolve this matter and ensure these issues do not re-occur.”