NHTSA Once Again Flexes Regulatory Muscle Over GM, Manufacturers Who Used Takata

Since taking the helm of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in January, Mark Rosekind has made his intention to hold automakers responsible for safety issues well known. This week, the agency continued tightening the reins by extending oversight requirements imposed on General Motors stemming from its ignition switch defect and invoking its legal authority to speed up the recall process related to millions of vehicles recalled for Takata airbag defects.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the two separate actions provide evidence that Rosekind and NHTSA are taking a more rigorous approach to recalls and enforcement.

The first action extends the agency’s overnight of GM’s review, decision-making and compunctions about potential safety issues for another year.

Under the extension, GM is required to submit reports to the agency and meet with NHTSA staff on a monthly basis in order for regulators to monitor the manufacturer’s investigation process for potential safety issues.

“We expect to see the improvements they’ve made continue and that their new approaches are applied to every GM safety issue and every recall,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Today’s action will help keep them on the right track.”

Oversight by the agency was part of a 2014 agreement with GM, following the recall of 2.6 million cars with potentially faulty switches, an issue the automaker allegedly hid for nearly a decade.

In a statement to the Detroit Free Press, a GM spokesperson said the meetings have allowed it to “foster a relationship that’s candid, transparent and totally focused on the safety of our customers. We’ve come a long way and we fully intend to build on this progress.”

The second action involved what is now the largest auto recall in history: Takata airbags that can spew pieces of shrapnel upon deployment.

For the first time in its history NHTSA invoked its legal authority under the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation Act (TREAD Act), that it was given nearly 15 years ago.

The agency filed documents with the Federal Register on Thursday that will speed up and coordinate the recall for the millions of vehicles equipped with Takata airbags, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“NHTSA is launching a legal process that will allow us to bring together auto manufacturers whose vehicles are affected, along with Takata and other parts suppliers,” Foxx said in a statement. “That way, they can organize this recall effort and get it done as quickly and effectively as possible.”

The stepped up legal action comes just days after Takata announced it would recall 33.4 million vehicles equipped with the potentially deadly airbags that have been linked to six deaths and more than 100 injuries.

NHTSA tightens oversight for Takata, GM [Detroit Free Press]