NHTSA Chief: Regulators “Questioning Everything” About Vehicle Recalls, Safety Issues

Recent high-profile recalls from the likes of Volkswagen, General Motors and other automakers have changed the way federal regulators view safety issues within the auto industry. Instead of viewing some recall initiatives as isolated incidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now going to take a closer look at issues.

That’s according to NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind, who told the Automotive Industry Action Group conference that recent safety failings by automakers – including the record $105 million fine against Fiat Chrysler – highlight the need for increased resources inside the agency, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Rosekind noted that federal officials now need to more closely monitor corporations when it comes to ensuring they meet safety regulations, citing the recent Environmental Protection Agency order for Volkswagen to recall nearly 500,000 cars as an example of such cases where better oversight has led to enforcement action.

“We’re questioning everything now,” Rosekind said. “You have to question all assumptions … you have to question every assumption when information is provided. It’s a very different place to start, and again, it’s part of the reactive part that is very dangerous for all of us.”

Now, Rosekind says, when an issue is found in one automaker, regulators must now turn the magnifying glass toward others.

“Everytime we have an individual automaker or supplier where we find an issue, your first question has to be how extensive is it through the whole industry?” Rosekind said. “If they did it anyone else can do it.”

In addition to addressing the EPA’s recall of VW sedans equipped with a “defeat device” to pass federal emissions regulations, Rosekind briefly touched on the DOJ’s recent deferred prosecution agreement with General Motors over a decades-long ignition switch defect linked to more than 120 deaths.

While Rosekind didn’t criticize the arrangement, he noted that the DOJ’s $900 million fine against the company “validated everything” that NHTSA found in its investigation of the automaker.

Rosekind said the agency continues to look into the issue of shrapnel-shooting Takata airbags, with a meeting between regulators, automakers and parts makers set for next month.

“We’ve been trying to get a focus not just on probably cause, but on a remedy,” Rosekind said. “We’re also going to talk about the plan of repair. They (Takata) have updated their numbers. They gave us 34 million vehicles to start with. It’s now at about 21.4 million. We’re going to have a plan for how to phase them in.”

NHTSA chief challenges automakers in wake of GM, VW cases [The Detroit Free Press]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.