NHTSA urged to accelerate Takata recall work

on Jun10

Changes for China

In a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Sens. John Thune and Bill Nelson asked for an update by July 7 in 7 areas, including:

  • Number of vehicles affected by Takata airbag recalls that have not been repaired, broken down by manufacturer, vehicle and inflator type
  • Whether there are enough available inflators for repairs, the number and types of vehicles for which replacement parts are unavailable and NHTSA’s efforts to work with automakers and ?suppliers to increase the supply
  • Whether the approach of phasing recalls based on risk appropriately balances safety and parts availability
  • Efforts to increase consumer awareness and reduce potential confusion over the recalls
  • NHTSA efforts to encourage implementation of recommendations from the independent monitor to improve recall repair rates

WASHINGTON — Two senior lawmakers are urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to redouble efforts to speed the replacement of potentially deadly Takata airbag inflators amid concerns about a leadership vacuum at the agency and a persistent shortage of parts.

Figures provided to Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., by the independent monitor appointed by NHTSA to oversee the industry’s handling of the Takata recall show that about 30.4 million, or nearly two-thirds, of the 46.2 million inflators recalled nationwide hadn’t been repaired as of mid-May.

“It’s been two years since the first nationwide recall, and we still can’t get these potentially deadly vehicles repaired fast enough,” Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement. “We’ve got to pick up the pace.”

Nelson and the committee’s chairman, John Thune, R-S.D., this month asked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for an update on repairs for Takata airbags, which have been linked to 11 deaths and about 180 injuries in the U.S.

Their concern stems in part from the fact that NHTSA, which took on the unprecedented role of coordinating the massive recall with automakers and suppliers, has been without an administrator since January, when President Barack Obama’s appointee, Mark Rosekind, left.

An independent monitor is managing the recall program, but lawmakers and safety advocates say senior leadership is needed to keep the issue in the spotlight and support the monitor when problems need to be addressed with the industry. People working as temporary replacements often lack the clout or authority to push new initiatives.

Rosekind was appointed by Obama in late 2014 to fill a NHTSA administrator spot that had been vacant for nearly a year, a period that saw the unfolding of the General Motors ignition switch crisis and a record tide of vehicle recalls.

There are no signs that the Trump administration has begun a search for someone to head NHTSA, which also lacks a deputy administrator. Executive Director Jack Danielson, fourth in the chain of command, is the acting deputy and running the agency.

Nelson: “We’ve got to pick up the pace.”

“We’re in desperate need of a leader who will commit to resolving this Takata mess,” Nelson said.

NHTSA and DOT representatives did not respond to repeated inquiries for comment.

Dealing with one of the largest consumer recalls in history has vexed regulators, the 19 affected automakers and dealers. One of the biggest difficulties has been notifying people with affected vehicles, especially second and third owners, and persuading them to go to a dealership for repairs.

Under the 2015 FAST Act, which reauthorized transportation infrastructure and safety programs, Congress instructed NHTSA to establish a pilot program for enlisting state motor vehicle agencies to help notify owners of recalls. NHTSA last year solicited interest from states, but hasn’t issued any grants so far. 

The program is designed to figure out issues such as database compatibility between automakers and motor vehicle agencies and the best methods and timing for communication with owners.

A year ago, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers partnered with the insurance industry to place recall information in regular consumer correspondence and on their websites.

Changes for China

In a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Sens. John Thune and Bill Nelson asked for an update by July 7 in 7 areas, including:

  • Number of vehicles affected by Takata airbag recalls that have not been repaired, broken down by manufacturer, vehicle and inflator type
  • Whether there are enough available inflators for repairs, the number and types of vehicles for which replacement parts are unavailable and NHTSA’s efforts to work with automakers and ?suppliers to increase the supply
  • Whether the approach of phasing recalls based on risk appropriately balances safety and parts availability
  • Efforts to increase consumer awareness and reduce potential confusion over the recalls
  • NHTSA efforts to encourage implementation of recommendations from the independent monitor to improve recall repair rates


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