— The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking into the conduct of BMW as the government opens an "audit query" into past MINI Cooper recalls.
The query is to learn if BMW legally complied with the federal Safety Act concerning side impact tests conducted on the 2014-2015 MINI Cooper, MINI Cooper S and the 2015 John Cooper Works cars.
NHTSA says it tested two model year 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtops in mid-2014 for side impact crashworthiness to measure spine acceleration results for the rear seat female crash-test dummy. NHTSA says the results showed a potential problem that BMW ignored.
The test was conducted again in October 2014, and the 2014 MINI Cooper Hardtop 2-door failed the test related to spine acceleration events for rear passengers. BMW responded by saying the certification for the 2014 MINI Cooper Hardtop was based on testing conducted on a 2014 MINI Cooper S Hardtop, even though the Cooper S is a heavier car.
In early January 2015, BMW recalled 3,700 model year 2014 MINI Cooper Hardtop 2-door cars to install a small foam patch in the rear door panels.
Shortly after, the automaker recalled over 13,000 model year 2014-2015 MINI Cooper Hardtops to raise the vehicle weight rating and the vehicle capacity weight on the tire placards.
Then the real trouble began. BMW told NHTSA that a "service campaign" would be conducted to add padding to the rear side panels of 2015 MINI Cooper 2-door Hardtops, but the automaker never followed through with the campaign. Additionally, BMW didn't inform NHTSA about the failure to conduct the campaign.
In July 2015, a 2015 MINI Cooper S was tested without padding and failed with respect to spine acceleration for the rear passenger test dummy. BMW then ordered a recall for the 2014-2015 MINI Cooper Hardtop, MINI Cooper S Hardtop and 2015 John Cooper Works cars.
The government says it's concerned BMW was aware or should have been aware the MINI cars had rear passenger protection problems and should have taken action earlier to protect consumers. NHTSA also says it appears BMW didn't notify the safety agency about recall actions in a timely manner.
The audit query will determine if BMW/MINI complied with the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and to learn more about how BMW conducts recalls.
Read what owners say about their MINI Cooper, MINI Cooper S and John Cooper Works cars: