Upton Announces Investigation into GM and NHTSA Response to Consumer Complaints

March 10, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) today announced that the committee has opened an investigation into the General Motors Company’s (GM) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) response to consumer complaints related to problems with ignition switches in certain vehicles. General Motors has announced the recalls of six vehicle models to correct the problems and stated that the defects may have been linked to 31 frontal crashes and 13 fatalities. While the recalls were first announced last month, a recent New York Times report claims NHTSA has received a large number of complaints expressing safety concerns and describing these problems spanning over the past 10 years.

It has been over a decade since the enactment of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (or TREAD) Act, which was passed by Congress to enhance the federal government’s ability to protect against auto safety defects. Chairman Upton authored the TREAD Act after spearheading an extensive investigation into the Ford-Firestone tire malfunctions as then-chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. The legislation was intended to improve communication between auto manufacturers and the federal government and increase NHTSA’s ability to collect and analyze information about potential threats. In light of GM’s safety problems, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will seek a progress report on the TREAD Act’s implementation and pursue answers relating to the complaints filed with NHTSA, the response, and the eventual recalls.

“To better protect the public, I sponsored the TREAD Act back in 2000 so that regulators and companies could better identify safety defects in vehicles before they escalated into an ongoing problem. Congress passed this bipartisan solution with the intention of exposing flaws and preventing accidents and fatalities. Yet, here we are over a decade later, faced with accidents and tragedies, and significant questions need to be answered. Did the company or regulators miss something that could have flagged these problems sooner? If the answer is yes, we must learn how and why this happened, and then determine whether this system of reporting and analyzing complaints that Congress created to save lives is being implemented and working as the law intended. Americans deserve to have the peace of mind that they are safe behind the wheel. We plan to seek detailed information from both NHTSA and GM and will hold a hearing in the coming weeks,” said Upton.