Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NHTSA hit for failing to hone in on GM ignition failures.

Bloomberg News (9/17, Plungis, 1.94M) reports that according to a report from a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration “didn’t recognize a pattern of air bag failures in General Motors Co. (GM) cars that would later be linked to flawed ignition switch design.” The report found that the NHTSA “failed to act on multiple police reports dating back to 2007 that inquired about a link between faulty ignition switches, which led cars to stall, and air bags that didn’t deploy.”
        On its front page, the New York Times (9/17, A1, Stout, Kessler, Subscription Publication, 9.9M) reports that at a Senate hearing on the subject on Tuesday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) said that the NHTSA is “more interested in singing ‘Kumbaya’ with the manufacturers than being a cop on the beat.” In response, NHTSA head David Friedman “sought to turn blame for mounting safety problems back at G.M., which he said had illegally withheld critical information from the agency.”
        In an editorial, USA Today (9/17, 5.6M) says that the NHTSA “had chance after chance to spot the defect and push General Motors to recall its deadly cars.” Instead, the agency “wagged its tail and meekly rolled over — and not for the first time.” It has “repeatedly failed to spot defects, pursue investigations forcefully or use its powers to get defective cars off the road.”
        In an op-ed for USA Today (9/17, Friedman, 5.6M), NHTSA head David Friedman writes that his group “aggressively investigates and pursues recalls to protect the American public.” Regarding the GM issue, he writes that the NHTSA “looked into this problem twice in the years leading up to the recall. At that time, the data did not support a recall. In fact, the number of related complaints were going down, not up, when we reviewed the case.” He goes on to blame GM for hiding the problem, and says that his group has now reformed its procedures to deal with such situations more effectively in the future. 

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