Defective automobiles and automobile parts are a common problem. The total number of recalls has risen to record levels. The process by which auto defects are identified and eventually recalled has drawn heavy criticism. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came under fire following what were considered blunders in handling faulty ignition switches in General Motors vehicles and defective airbags manufactured by Takata. New NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind has promised to improve the defect analysis and recall system.
Mr. Rosekind used the term “latent failures” to describe the GM ignition switch and Takata airbag situations. In both cases, reports of dangerous failures surfaced years before the NHTSA took any action that directly protected consumers. Many accused the NHTSA of dragging its feet because of close ties to auto industry players. The body was accused of being in the pocket of auto companies to the detriment of the general public.
Mr. Rosekind has already asked for greater resources, including a larger staff and access to the latest technology, to continue the safety mission of the NHTSA. It is unclear if more money would solve the problem if the group really is under the sway of auto companies. The new administrator came from the National Transportation Safety Board with an emphasis on distracted driving, so he does not have the connections in the auto industry that many previous administrators had. That may allow him to begin the work of the NHTSA anew, with the focus squarely on improving traffic safety, as it should be.
Source: Tire Business, “NHTSA must improve defect analysis system — Rosekind,” by Ryan Beene, 8 January 2015