The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reportedly gearing up for an internal review of its culture as the agency struggles to manage new safety recalls. The agency is now under fire for its clumsy response to the Takata air bag recalls just weeks after a committee report revealed NHTSA failed to identify the deadly General Motors ignition switch defect despite access to years of information that could have led to its discovery. According to a recent Bloomberg article published in Automotive News, “A growing number of airbag recalls is raising doubts about whether the agency learned lessons on handling defect investigations after the bungling of the General Motors Co. ignition switch recalls. NHTSA is now playing catch-up again as it tries to identify airbags that may inflate with so much force metal pieces can be flung at passengers.” The committee’s report into NHTSA’s role in the ignition switch defect identified a series of failures by the agency, including a failure to keep pace with advancements in technology and a culture that minimizes accountability.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, “It is well past time for some agency introspection, and I am pleased to hear NHTSA is finally taking steps to review its culture and practices. Mistakes have been made by both companies and regulators, and as the agency holds automakers accountable, it needs to hold itself to the same – if not a higher – standard as those it regulates. NHTSA must be willing to learn from the failures of the past so we can improve safety. This can begin with the naming of a new NHTSA chief – a critically important safety post that remains vacant to this day.”
The committee is continuing its oversight of the nation’s auto safety regulator amid increasing safety concerns. Bipartisan committee staff received an initial briefing from NHTSA today on the agency’s investigation into Takata and the status of the air bag recalls. The committee will continue its conversations with the agency and will also meet with auto manufacturers on the issue.
October 24, 2014
NHTSA in line for cultural overhaul after airbag meltdown
WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) — The agency that botched a campaign to publicize a potentially lethal airbag defect affecting 7.8 million U.S. cars is reviewing its safety culture, according to a senior Obama administration official.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will also review whether the threshold for action set in the past is still appropriate, the official said today at a briefing with reporters in Washington.
The agency, which has been without a chief since January, may have one nominated within two weeks, the official said.
Congress is getting involved too. A growing number of airbag recalls is raising doubts about whether the agency learned lessons on handling defect investigations after the bungling of the General Motors Co. ignition switch recalls. NHTSA is now playing catch-up again as it tries to identify airbags that may inflate with so much force metal pieces can be flung at passengers.
“Drivers are being told they need to fix their cars immediately, yet they are directed to a website that isn’t working properly and are being told by dealers that they don’t have working parts,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan said in a statement. “Drivers are rightly confused and panicked.”
Upton’s committee said today it plans a private meeting next week with NHTSA officials about the airbag recalls.
NHTSA has been without an administrator since David Strickland stepped down in January. Throughout the year, which included managing the GM ignition-switch recall now tied to 29 deaths, NHTSA has been run by its deputy administrator, David Friedman.
NHTSA can’t rely of the lack of leadership as an excuse, the official said. The agency has a responsibility to perform, and the Transportation Department is doing a thorough review of its mistakes this week. Those included factual errors in an initial consumer advisory and a website that remained crashed for most of the week, he said.
Read the article online here.