The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it’s going to take action in the coming weeks on two long-running safety recalls that it views as progressing too slowly. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said that two working groups at the agency have developed a “range of options” for next steps the agency can take on the recall of 1.56 million older Jeep SUVs for fuel tanks that could rupture in a crash, and the widespread Takata air bag inflator recalls, which have affected some 25 million vehicles worldwide since 2008. He had this to say:
The most important thing was to be able to generate a range of options for us to kind of decide where we want to address these issues in a strategic but timely way. For both [the Takata and Jeep recalls], I think we’re one or two weeks away from actually having some concrete things to start taking action on.
Rosekind hadn’t specified the options on the table, but it’s become quite apparent that NHTSA has been dissatisfied with the overall pace of repairs under the recalls. Bloomberg reported recently that the agency may consider reopening an investigation into the Jeep recalls after reviewing how many of the Jeeps were repaired in the first quarter.
NHTSA has also been considering an order to speed up the pace of repairs under the Takata recalls. The recalls began to grow significantly last summer and accelerated through late last year, when several automakers, under pressure from NHTSA, extended recalls of driver-side air bags that had been limited to high-humidity regions and issued them nationwide.
It’s unclear exactly how many of the vehicles recalled for Takata air bags have been repaired, but anecdotal evidence indicates that the vast majority remain unfixed. For example, American Honda had repaired 815,298 out of roughly 5.39 million vehicles included in its largest Takata-related recall through the first quarter of 2015, according to recall documents posted on NHTSA’s web site. Rosekind summed it up when he said, “Overall we think everything’s been too slow.”
Efforts to speed the Takata and Jeep recalls comes as NHTSA has finally started to push automakers to adopt a more proactive stance on safety issues. Rosekind says he wants automakers to make every effort to repair 100 percent of recalled vehicles. NHTSA held a summit of major automaker CEOs last month in Washington, D.C. to discuss the safety culture at each company. The purpose of this workshop was to devise ways to improve the recall system. The workshop, called “The Retooling Recalls Workshop,” was to be a venue for concrete proposals by the automobile industry to improve the effectiveness of the recall process. Rosekind had this to say prior to the workshop:
Everyone absolutely agrees that there are problems with notifications, parts availability and the timeliness of getting these done. By the end of the day, we want solutions.
I sincerely hope that the leadership at NHTSA will continue to show its renewed interest in doing its job of regulating the automobile industry. It appears at this juncture that the agency is doing a much better job. Congress should also take steps to give NHTSA better staffing and more specific authority so that it can really do its job.
Source: Automotive News
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