NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. Photo courtesy of U.S. DOT.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. Photo courtesy of U.S. DOT.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has fined a wheelchair lift maker $1.75 million for continuing to sell its defective lifts to van and bus manufacturers, even after issuing a safety recall to address a fire risk.

As part of a settlement with NHTSA, California-based Ricon Corp. has admitted to violating the Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and other federal vehicle safety regulations. The company has also agreed to pay the civil penalty and to be subject to additional federal oversight.

After learning of the continued sales, company management failed to promptly notify federal regulators of the problem, NHTSA said.

“This company’s failure to protect the public from a product known to be a safety risk is absolutely unacceptable,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Manufacturers must meet their safety obligations, and when they don’t, we will be there with strong enforcement action.”

Beginning in September of 2012, Ricon recalled more than 4,000 wheelchair lifts that it sold to manufacturers of vans and buses. The recall remedied a defective cable that could spark a fire.

In June of 2013, NHTSA began contacting bus and van manufacturers who used Ricon wheelchair lifts to make sure they were aware of the recall. As part of that effort, NHTSA asked Ricon when it had ceased producing the defective lifts. Ricon, however, failed to respond to repeated requests for the information.

Six months later, in January 2014, Ricon informed NHTSA that it had mistakenly continued to produce and sell wheelchair lifts with the safety defect. The company reported that it had sold 356 defective lifts after it issued the recall. As a result of NHTSA’s investigation, Ricon issued a new recall to address those lifts in March.

As part of the consent order, Ricon has agreed that during the next year it will acknowledge any communication from NHTSA within three business days. Ricon also must develop internal procedures to prevent future manufacture and sale of products already under recall for safety defects. Additionally, during the next year, the company must update NHTSA every 90 days about the company's implementation of those procedures.