By on May 26, 2010

The House Energy And Commerce Committee has passed an amended version of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act that was previously approved by its Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. True to our prediction, longtime auto industry ally Rep John Dingell (D-MI) was able to maintain caps on NHTSA’s fining power at $200m per automaker per defect recall (up from the current cap of $16.4m) and $5m per auto executive per defect, and require that NHTSA inform automakers and allow for an appeal before invoking the “imminent hazard” powers authorized by the bill. Dingell tells Automotive News [sub] that

The bill is going to be a hard one for the industry to accept, but I believe it’s in the public interest and is good overall.

The Committee-approved version of the bill still doubles NHTSA funding to $280m over three years, and establishes a $3 per new-vehicle-sale “vehicle safety user fee” that will increase to $9 per new-vehicle-sale in the same three-year timeframe. The bill also prevents former NHTSA employees from lobbying the regulator for a year after leaving their government positions. It also makes brake-override systems and “black box” event data recorders mandatory on all new cars sold (although it doesn’t require that EDRs record for 75 seconds, as previous drafts did), but allows NHTSA to set a timeline for implementation of these standards. If passed into law, the bill would also require NHTSA to come up with standards for

foot-pedal placement, electronic systems, push-button ignition systems and transmission configuration

performance requirements for an alert sound that allows blind and other pedestrians to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle operating [in EV mode]
According to the Detroit News, an amendment was also introduced by Rep Mike Rogers (D-MI) that would have
barred NHTSA from collecting civil fines from General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC while the companies are under government ownership
The Senate version of the bill now varies considerably from HR 5381 which must still be approved by the full House of Representatives, but the Senate Commerce Committee has yet to schedule a vote on its version. Once that happens, a compromise will have to be reached in conference committee before the President can sign the legislation into law.
Having mitigated what it saw as the most distasteful elements of the bill, namely provisions granting NHTSA “imminent hazard” authority and uncapping of NHTSA fines, the industry appears to have made its peace with the compromise embodied in HR 3581, although industry groups like the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers have yet to release official statements. Republicans remain in vocal opposition to the bill, having failed to prevent its passage in a party-line vote, and are reportedly preparing a number of further amendments.
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6 Comments on “House Energy And Commerce Committee Approves New NHTSA Fine Cap, “Vehicle Safety User Fee,” More...”


  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    “but I believe it’s in the public interest”

    this term fills me with dread

    i bet even Hitler used and

  • avatar

    Was it a coincidence that NHTSA found previously unaccounted corpses in their complaint database, right before the committee vote?

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Do we really need this?

    “If passed into law, the bill would also require NHTSA to come up with standards for

    foot-pedal placement, electronic systems, push-button ignition systems and transmission configuration”

    Or, this?

    “performance requirements for an alert sound that allows blind and other pedestrians to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle operating [in EV mode]”

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The former? Yes. It’s low-hanging fruit and automakers have demonstrably done a piss-poor job at ergonomics. And ergonomics are critical when we’re talking about tons of metal flying down the road int he hands of mortal operators.

      The latter? I don’t think so. You can, quite easily, hear a hybrid approaching based on tire noise alone.


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