It appears ARC Automotive Inc. is failing to cooperate with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the agency’s investigation of the potentially defective and dangerous air bag inflators manufactured by the company. NHTSA called ARC’s actions “insufficient and disappointing.” In an Oct. 4 letter to ARC, NHTSA said the company missed a number of deadlines to submit information requested by the agency, despite numerous deadline extensions and promises that the responses would be delivered on time.
NHTSA also noted that ARC failed to report a number of incidents relating to the company’s air bag inflators and said ARC contested its obligation to report this information. NHTSA said any future failures to cooperate with the investigation could result in serious consequences, including civil penalties of $21,000 per violation per day, up to a maximum of $105 million. The agency said:
Should ARC fail to appropriately work with the agency and other relevant entities in the underlying investigation, in addition to civil penalties, NHTSA will pursue all available enforcement options, including but not limited to the immediate notice of administrative depositions and scheduling of a public hearing to obtain the requisite information to pursue our investigation.
NHTSA’s letter is the latest development in its investigation against ARC. The probe was launched in July 2015 after the agency received two reports of injuries caused by ruptured air bag inflators. The investigation covered 420,000 2002 Chrysler Town and Country minivans manufactured by General Motors Co. and 70,000 2004 Optima sedans made by Kia Motors Corp. The agency upgraded the investigation in August of this year after the death of a driver in Canada the month prior because of an air bag rupture.
With the renewed investigation, NHTSA issued a standing general order to ARC requiring, among other things, a report by the company to the agency within five days of being notified of an inflator rupture. The investigation expanded to 8 million vehicles made by Chrysler, GM, Kia and Hyundai. In its Oct. 4 letter, NHTSA also said ARC missed an Aug. 9 information request deadline and proposed a response date of Sept. 8 instead, indicating it would allow the company sufficient time to provide answers to the agency.
ARC continues to request revised submission schedules, citing various reasons for its delays including “IT issues.” The company has continually missed the submission deadline and eventually pushed its deadline back as far as Sept. 26. NHTSA said in its letter that ARC had an obligation to submit information, even if it was only partially complete, and even if the company had been granted an extension. The agency reminded ARC of its obligations under the general order, including its incident reporting requirements, saying all future information requests must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on deadline day.
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