Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GM Ignition Recall

        Observers ask if NHTSA “dropped the ball” on GM defects. The Wall Street Journal (3/26, White, Bennett, Subscription Publication, 4.25M) reports that NHTSA is coming under increased scrutiny after evidence has surfaced that the agency missed signs pointing toward defective ignition switches in certain GM vehicles. In addition to congressional investigations, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has ordered a review that determine how NHTSA can improve its data analysis. The Journal also notes that Foxx has told Congress that agency officials didn’t know everything GM knew about the ignition switch problems. “It is our belief that had we known there was an issue, that might have changed the outcome of those initial crash investigations,” Foxx said.
        Herb Weisbaum writes at NBC News (3/26, 950K) that “consumer advocates want to see things change at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration” because “they believe these dangerous vehicles would have been recalled many years ago had the safety agency done its job.” According to Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, “NHTSA is simply not protecting the public from safety defects as it’s supposed to do.”
        Safety advocates question whether NHTSA has sufficient resources. Bloomberg News (3/26, Plungis, 392K) reports, “The U.S. office responsible for monitoring safety defects in cars has had its budget stagnate and its staff cut by one-fifth from highs more than a decade ago, when Congress tried to strengthen it.” Bloomberg News notes that “while no one has connected cuts to the failure to order a recall earlier of 1.6 million General Motors Co. cars linked to 12 deaths, safety advocates say U.S. investigators don’t have enough resources to keep up with data and detect patterns.” Meanwhile, Nathan Naylor, a spokesman for NHTSA, “defended the agency’s track record, saying its investigations have led to 929 recalls involving more than 55 million vehicles in the past seven years.” 

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