15 Jul 2015

Race claims drive Honda settlement

10:54 am on 15 July 2015

Honda has agreed to pay $US24 million to settle claims in the United States it discriminated against some customers based on race.

The Honda logo.

The Honda logo. Photo: AFP

An investigation by American regulators found the Japanese company charged African American and Hispanic owners higher interest rates on car loans.

Regulators found that they paid on average $250 more than Caucasian customers regardless of their creditworthiness.

Honda said in a statement that it "strongly opposes any form of discrimination".

The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Department of Justice said American Honda Finance Corp, the company's loans arm, would change its pricing and compensation system to reduce the potential for discrimination.

Despite the settlement, Honda said it disagreed with how the two regulators determined discrimination but "we nonetheless share a fundamental agreement in the importance of fair lending".

American Honda Finance Corporation (AHFC) does not make loans directly to consumers but receives loan applications through car dealers. Those dealers have the discretion to vary a loan's interest rate after an initial price Honda sets based on creditworthiness.

The $24m Honda will pay will go in to a fund to compensate affected borrowers.

Car loans are the third-largest source of household debt in the US, after mortgages and student loans.

AHFC will also pay $1m into a car finance education program for minority borrowers, the regulators said.