Wednesday, June 24, 2015

NHTSA, Takata face criticism during Senate committee hearing.

A Senate panel’s hearing Tuesday on the Takata airbag recall garnered widespread media coverage, with at least one network evening newscast reporting on the story. Much of the coverage has focused on the criticism faced by the NHTSA during the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s hearing Tuesday. For instance, the AP (6/24, Gordon, Durbin) reports that the Senate panel formally met to “grill” Takata, but “much of the committee’s ire was directed” at NHTSA and its “numerous missteps in the Takata investigation as well as last year’s recall of General Motors Co. vehicles for defective ignition switches.” Further, the CBS Evening News (6/23, story 5, 2:45, Glor, 5.08M) reported that NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind testified at the hearing, noting that the agency was “hit with a scathing report Monday saying the agency routinely misses major safety problems in American cars.”
        In another article, the AP (6/24, Gordon, Krisher) reports that during the hearing, “senators expressed anger and exasperation” with both Takata and NHTSA. According to the article, the lawmakers criticized NHTSA for “failing to investigate early reports of exploding air bags.” The AP notes that the DOT Inspector General’s “critical” report of the agency highlighted several problems, “including lack of training, failure to follow through on consumer complaints and failure to hold automakers accountable.” On the front page of its “Business Day” section, the New York Times (6/24, B1, Vlasic, Subscription Publication, 12.24M) reports that Rosekind promised to “upgrade” NHTSA’s “personnel and procedures.” Rosekind is quoted as saying, “We will continue to look at every place possible to make changes.” The article notes that some of the senators acknowledged that NHTSA, “had at least, under Mr. Rosekind, begun to improve defect investigations.” Some of the lawmakers also “agreed” with Rosekind’s assertion that NHTSA needs more funding “to manage an ‘overwhelming’ flood of potential investigations and complaints,” according to the Washington Post (6/24, Harwell, 5.03M).
        However, Bloomberg News (6/23, Levin, 3.81M) reports DOT Inspector General Calvin Scovel warned the Senate panel that giving NHTSA more funding before the agency implements “broader improvements ‘does not seem like a good idea.’” Additionally, Reuters (6/24, Morgan, Klayman) quotes Sen. Claire McCaskill as saying during Tuesday’s hearing that she opposes giving more money to NHTSA until she sees “meaningful progress on reforming the internal processes within” the agency. Republican Chairman of the Senate commerce committee, John Thune, also remarked during the hearing that the agency is failing to follow “basic best practices and these are problems that can’t be solved by throwing additional resources at the problem.”
        Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press (6/24, Spangler, 957K) reports, Sen. Bill Nelson said he would “continue to fight for more funding” for NHTSA, but “added, ‘there also has to be accountability.’”

        A video of Tuesday’s hearing is posted on the C-SPAN (6/23, 52K) website. 

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