A New York Times investigation into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration alleges that the nation’s top auto safety regulator spent the past decade stumbling over recalls and withholding its legal powers to regulate an auto industry with record-breaking recalls in 2014.
Perhaps the most damning part: Since 2000, automakers are required to report any claims of serious injury or death as a result of vehicle defects. NHTSA is allowed to make what’s called a “death inquiry,” which asks automakers to provide the cause of a given accident, but the answer is optional, and the vast majority of automakers decline to provide it. Prior to the publication of the article, NHTSA reversed its policy and now
NHTSA put out the following statement:
“NHTSA has a proven record of aggressively investigating and pursuing recalls. Over the past 10 years alone, NHTSA’s defect investigations have resulted in 1,299 recalls involving more than 95 million vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. When auto manufacturers fail to quickly find and fix safety defects, as seen in cases involving Toyota, Ford, GM and Hyundai, there are consequences. NHTSA has issued record fines of more than $140 million over the last five years, places unprecedented oversight when automakers fail to meet their obligations, and is seeking both increased fines and authority under the Grow America Act to force automakers to immediately recall vehicles that pose an imminent hazard. As a result, the agency believes the industry is getting the message and automakers now have a heightened sensitivity to recalls to avoid public and governmental scrutiny. The increased responsiveness on recalls this year should be normal practice in the industry, not the exception.”