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Pallone & Schakowsky Question NHTSA Inaction in Addressing More Than 420 Reports of Kia & Hyundai Vehicle Fires

Jul 26, 2018
Press Release
Recent IG Report Highlights Troubling Breakdowns in NHTSA Enforcement

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) sent a letter to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Deputy Administrator Heidi King today expressing concerns over a new Inspector General (IG) report that was critical of NHTSA’s unwillingness to properly use its enforcement authorities and King’s seemingly hands-off approach to regulation.

The report, released last week, highlighted troubling breakdowns in the Agency’s enforcement, which Pallone and Schakowsky fear could be preventing it from taking any action to address more than 420 reports of certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles catching fire. 

“Both enforcement and rulemaking play important roles in keeping people safe on our roadways, and we are concerned that this IG report and your own comments could hinder the Agency’s ability to protect the American people from dangerous vehicles,” Pallone and Schakowsky wrote to King. 

The IG found that NHTSA’s delayed investigation of consumer complaints about Takata airbags may have delayed the expansion of the company’s recalls, and that NHTSA has failed to effectively use its enforcement tools to ensure recalled vehicles get repaired as quickly as possible.  Pallone and Schakowsky are concerned that a similar delay of an investigation and lack of enforcement by NHTSA may now be occurring with the Kia and Hyundai vehicles.

“Despite repeated calls now for NHTSA to open an investigation into the Kia and Hyundai fires, NHTSA has still failed to take meaningful action to keep drivers and passengers safe.  We would like to know if similar errors are now preventing NHTSA from recalling Kia and Hyundai vehicles that should not be on the road,” Pallone and Schakowsky continued.

Despite the IG’s critical report, Deputy Administrator King recently proclaimed in an interview that NHTSA would rely on existing defect investigation, recall, and enforcement authority structures, rather than write new rules, to oversee autonomous vehicle technology.

“This statement is concerning considering the IG investigation found that NHTSA is currently failing to properly do its job in these areas,” Pallone and Schakowsky concluded.  

Pallone and Schakowsky requested responses to the following questions by August 10, 2018.

  • List each active recall and the completion rate of each recall listed.
  • How many formal investigations has NHTSA opened in the last two years?  How many has it closed?
  • Has NHTSA opened a formal investigation of the non-collision Kia and Hyundai vehicle fires?  If so, how long is this investigation expected to take?  If not, how many fires would need to occur before you do so?  How many fires would be required to show there is a pattern?
  • What steps have been taken to implement the IG’s recommendations?  When will NHTSA complete each recommendation?

The letter is available HERE.