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Committee Continues Focus on Auto Safety with Scrutiny over Air Bag Recalls

Oct 23, 2014

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) yesterday announced the committee would be taking a close look at the increasing number of recalls for defective airbags made by the auto supplier Takata. The committee has requested a briefing from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who this week issued warnings to drivers about the potential danger of the defect.

The Takata recalls are just the latest auto safety issue to be tackled by the committee. Chairman Upton has long been a leader on vehicle safety issues and was the author of the TREAD Act, which enhanced communication between auto manufacturers and regulators and increased NHTSA’s ability to collect and analyze information about safety defects. The committee this year has been conducting an extensive investigation into the General Motors ignition switch recall, and recently released a report detailing NHTSA’s failures in identifying the deadly problem. The investigation found NHTSA failed to act on evidence identifying the defect and lacked a technical understanding of advanced vehicle safety systems.

October 22, 2014

House committee asks for briefing on air bag recalls

The House Energy and Commerce Committee said Wednesday it wants to be briefed by the agency that regulates the automotive industry about the expanding number of air bag recalls involving auto supplier Takata.

The committee has requested a briefing from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on "the status of the Takata recalls and the agency's investigation."

This week, NHTSA has issued bulletins urging consumers with 7.8 million cars that have been recalled for air bags made by Takata to get their cars fixed as quickly as possible. …

NHTSA did not say why it only now is raising an alarm about the imminent danger of the bags, some of which have been on the roads since 2000, and which began being recalled by automakers in 2008.

NHTSA said the latest total could include some double-counted models and might change again.

"Recalls continue to mount across the country, and drivers are losing confidence," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said in a statement. "We also need to take a close look at this air bag issue and the time line and scope of the recalls to ensure that the appropriate steps are being taken to protect drivers and their families."

Automakers that have recalled vehicles with air bags made by Takata include BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.

GM said Wednesday it expanded a 2013 Takata air bag recall of Toyota-made Pontiac Vibes by about 9,900, to include 2005 models and some 2003s, and is sending overnight letters telling owners not to use the front passenger's seat until the bags are replaced.

Takata is among the world's largest suppliers of air bags and seat belts to the automotive industry.

Read the full article online HERE

October 22, 2014

Honda Air-Bag Deaths Draw Congress Query as Recalls Widen

The congressional investigators who dug into fatal defects in General Motors Co. (GM:US) and Toyota Motor Corp. cars are now asking U.S. safety regulators to brief them about potentially deadly air bags.

Staff from the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Michigan Republican Fred Upton, said yesterday that they had requested an explanation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about recalls of Takata Corp. air bags linked to four deaths in Honda Motor Co. cars.

That came a day after U.S. regulators expanded the number of vehicles they said were vulnerable by 3 million, to 7.8 million, and GM joined Toyota in warning people not to sit in front passenger seats. While NHTSA is urging people to be cautious, its website for checking your car’s status has been overwhelmed by heavy traffic. …

Congressional scrutiny adds to the pressure on Takata and on automakers such as Nissan Motor Co., GM and Toyota as recalls increase for air bags that can inflate with excessive force, sending metal fragments into vehicle occupants and causing death and serious injury. Honda alone has recalled 6 million vehicles globally since 2008 because of the flaw.

"Air bags were designed to improve safety and help save lives, which is why it’s so disconcerting to hear reports of this lifesaving tool posing a potential hazard to drivers," Upton said yesterday in a statement. "Recalls continue to mount across the country, and drivers are losing confidence."

Read the full article online HERE

October 22, 2014

Takata Airbag Recall Faces Rising Scrutiny

Capitol Hill increased pressure on the Japanese auto supplier Takata and federal safety regulators on Wednesday as two senators demanded wider recalls to fix millions of defective airbags and a House committee said it wanted a fuller accounting of how the recalls were handled. …

Separately on Wednesday, Representative Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he would ask government regulators to explain their handling of the Takata airbag recalls "to ensure that the appropriate steps are being taken to protect drivers and their families."

The committee would "take a close look at this airbag issue and the timeline and scope of the recalls," Mr. Upton said in a statement.

The committee, which previously led an aggressive investigation of General Motors over faulty ignition switches, and of Toyota over reports of unintended acceleration several years ago, has requested an initial briefing from the safety agency, according to a committee spokeswoman, Charlotte Baker.

Senator Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who heads a Senate subcommittee on consumer protection, has requested a similar briefing. She has asked automakers, including Honda, for information about Takata as well. Ms. McCaskill has led several hearings this year on the ignition switch defect at G.M. and the role of the auto safety regulators in rooting out dangerous defects.

Worldwide, more than 14 million vehicles with the defective airbags — including 11.6 million in the United States — from 11 automakers have been recalled since 2008. Takata was alerted to the problem as early as 2004, when the airbag in a 2002 Honda Accord ruptured in Alabama, but neither Tanaka nor Honda issued a recall or sought the involvement of federal safety regulators, a New York Times investigation has shown.

Read the full article online HERE.

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