NHTSA Criticized For Not Catching GM Ignition Problem

USA Today reports in a lengthy article that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has been criticized for not identifying the faulty ignition switch defect earlier, as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) has said “We know NHTSA did not identify the problem, but we don’t fully know why.” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said that “The bottom line is that safety is a shared responsibility,” as well as “There are some situations when automakers are in a better position than NHTSA to know information.” The article shows some sympathy for NHTSA, pointing out that the agency has only 591 employees and 51 people to investigate 45,000 complaints each year.

The Detroit (MI) Free Press reports that an examination of the GM organizational chart indicates that safety was not a top priority for GM as the “director of vehicle safety was four rungs down the ladder from the CEO… Finance, sales and public relations had a direct path to the top.” The Free Press reports that both Chrysler and Ford have safety directors who were “higher on their charts than GM does.” Erik Gordon, a business and law professor at the University of Michigan, casts skepticism that GM’s internal investigation, the Valukas report, will find any of the executives at fault, saying that in similar investigations, “Generally they come up with something that looks good enough to the outside world without damaging top management.” A second article on the Detroit (MI) Free Press reports that Kenneth Feinberg, the man retained by GM to develop settlement options for the faulty ignition switch lawsuits, said that he is “weeks away from providing GM or anybody else recommended compensation options.”

The New York (NY) Times reports that GM officials believe that the Valukas report will show that current GM CEO was not aware of the scandal until this year.

Bloomberg News reports that Nettleton Auto Sales Inc., a used car dealership in Arkansas, has filed a lawsuit against GM because it has been “saddled with ‘highly dangerous vehicles.’” Automotive News reports similarly.

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