The largest Honda power sports dealership in the county, Southern Honda Powersports in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has recently come under scrutiny by federal and state authorities over allegations that it illegally sold unsafe motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and dirt bikes to unknowing customers for years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration--a federal agency that oversees motor vehicle and highway safety across the country--began its probe in May. Last month, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Nashville and the Tennessee Attorney General's Office joined the investigation.
The store sells mostly motorcycles, ATVs and dirt bikes, as well as other power vehicles like snowmobiles and scooters. According to reports, Southern Honda Powersports has been assembling power sports vehicles with parts recalled for safety reasons, for as far back as 2004. Officials report that this could mean tens of thousands of people are riding potentially dangerous vehicles.
The allegations come from a former Southern Honda Marketing consultant and another former employee who apparently requested federal regulatory officials to act five years ago and again in 2010. The consultant informed the officials in 2010 that about 25,000 new motorcycles, dirt bikes and ATVs were assembled unsafely when he consulted for the company from February 2004 through May 2007. The consultant, Ernest Vickers, said the company continued to engage in unsafe assembly practices until at least 2010. The company has denied the allegations. However, at least an additional nine former employees have come forward with information corroborating Vickers' accounts.
Commentators suggest this also indicates a problem with the NHSTA and other regulatory bodies, since the allegations were brought to their attention years ago and regulators refused to act. According to news reports, Vickers sent emails, letters and signed affidavits of other employees with the allegations that the store disregarded vehicle safety to the NHTSA, the manufacturer, American Honda, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which regulates ATVs and dirt bikes and yet neither agency contacted him or took enforcement action until recently. It wasn't until May after USA Today began asking questions about Vickers' accusations that the NHTSA took note and began investigating Southern Honda. Vickers also alleged that American Honda was fully aware of the practices and did nothing to stop them.
This investigation highlights an important safety concern for consumers: although retailers and manufacturers--of products, drugs and the like--are supposed to cooperate with regulators and provide critical safety information to them the instance it is known, all too often, they neglect to do so. This leaves consumer safety in the hands of federal, state and local authorities, who may not have the resources to be able to take immediate enforcement action necessary to protect people.
The defective product lawyers at JONES WARD handle a variety of product and motor vehicle injury cases. If you or a loved one has been injured, please give us a call. For more information, contact attorney A. Layne Stackhouse at 502.882.6000 or email@example.com.