US Senate committee criticises natl. auto safety regulator for failing to identify defects in General Motors ignition switch leading to 19 deaths

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Article
17 September 2014

Senators call on auto safety regulator to take responsibility for its part in the delayed safety recalls

Author: Hilary Stout & Aaron M. Kessler, New York Times (USA)

"Senators Take Auto Agency to Task Over G.M. Recall",

The nation’s top auto regulator faced withering criticism across Capitol Hill on Tuesday over its failure to identify a deadly defect in General Motors cars — even as its top official tried again and again to shift the blame back to the automaker...Lawmakers from both parties accused the agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of overlooking evidence that could have saved lives and of deferring to the auto industry rather than standing up to it...The agency was ”more interested in singing ‘Kumbaya’ with the manufacturers than being a cop on the beat,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, the subcommittee’s chairwoman...[Senators said] that the agency failed to use its full authority over automakers and that it did not figure out defect trends that consumers themselves had alerted the agency to...“You want to obfuscate responsibility, rather than take responsibility,” Ms. McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said, her voice rising. “We’ve all said shame on G.M.” She added, “You’ve got to take some responsibility that this isn’t being handled correctly.”...The hearing was held on the same day that a House committee released its own report scrutinizing the agency’s performance on the G.M. ignition issue. That inquiry found many of the same problems for which Mr. Friedman chastised G.M., including that the safety agency repeatedly overlooked information that would have allowed it to detect the ignition flaw as early as 2007.

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Article
17 September 2014

US auto safety regulator criticises General Motors culture of focusing more on profits than on safety; calls for new "normal" for safety recalls

Author: Marilyn W. Thompson & Paul Lienert, Reuters

"U.S. safety chief raps GM's 'flawed' culture on recalls", 15 Sep 2014

The top U.S. auto safety regulator [David Friedman, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] harshly criticized General Motors Co for not promptly reporting and recalling cars now linked to at least 19 deaths and said he has been meeting with top global automakers to develop a "new normal" for safety recalls...GM earlier this year recalled 2.6 million vehicles because of the risk the switches could unexpectedly turn off engines during operation and disable airbags...Friedman said in the interview that his agency had started a program of "unprecedented oversight" with GM and other automakers...Friedman said GM had "a fundamentally flawed system and culture that was focused more on profits than on safety," but acknowledged the automaker has been overhauling its defect and recall reporting system under Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra...

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Item
17 September 2014

US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee review of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in GM case

Author: US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce

"Staff Report on the GM Ignition Switch Recall:Review of NHTSA", 16 Sep 2014

After reviewing documents produced by GM and NHTSA and conducting extensive interviews and briefings of relevant officials,Committee staff has identified the following key failures by the nation’s automobile safety regulator:1) NHTSA had ample information to identify a potential safety defect as early as 2007... 2) The agency failed to investigate or even explore the link between the air bags and ignition switch identified in the State Trooper’s report or agency-commissioned crash investigation following the fatal crash in Wisconsin...3) NHTSA failed to track or identify similarities in three independent investigations it commissioned of crashes involving non-deployment of the frontal air bags in the Chevrolet Cobalt...4) NHTSA’s failure to follow-up on information provided to the agency was compounded by a lack of understanding of the vehicle systems and functions implemented in response to the agency’s own standards.

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