Buried deep within the recently passed highway transportation funding act is a provision to incentivize whistleblowers to speak out against automakers who design serious safety flaws in the cars that they make.
The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, passed in Congress earlier this year and signed into law by President Barack Obama this month as part of a larger highway transportation funding bill, is the first federal attempt at preventing catastrophic defects such as the ignition switch installed into General Motors cars that killed 124 people. This year, General Motors settled with victims and families for more than $600 million and paid federal regulators more than $900 million in fines.
The bill’s language specifically targets defects such as GM’s ignition switches, but could leave helpless whistleblowers in cases like Volkswagen’s or examples such as Ralph Nader’s outcry as part of his groundbreaking book “Unsafe At Any Speed.” (Read More…)
A U.S. Senate committee for transportation passed along a bill Thursday that included provisions to help domestic automakers develop and build cleaner vehicles, the Detroit News is reporting.
The proposal, dubbed the Vehicle Innovation Act, was included in a larger clean energy bill taken up by the committee. The Vehicle Innovation Act would set aside $313.6 million next year for research and development of hybrid technology, battery development and alternative fuels such as natural gas. Funding would increase by 4 percent every year up to 2020.
Nearly all major U.S. automotive lobbies representing manufacturers supported the proposal. (Read More…)
General Motors disclosed in its quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission filing Thursday that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the automaker for selling used cars under recall, the Detroit News is reporting.
According to the automaker, the FTC notified GM that it was investigating “certified pre-owned vehicle advertising where dealers had certified vehicles allegedly needing recall repairs.”
The filing acknowledges the investigation is connected with the 2014 recall of 2.59 million cars with faulty ignition switches that could turn the car off while driving, disabling its airbags. So far, 124 deaths have been linked to the defect.
A U.S. Senate committee has shot down a number of auto safety measures including one that would hold executives criminally accountable for not disclosing known automotive defects, reports the New York Times.
“Hiding these deadly defects with near impunity is what the industry has succeeded in doing,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., according to the story. He introduced many of the failed provisions.
Another proposal that would have made it illegal for used-car dealers to sell vehicles with outstanding recalls was rejected by the committee.
Two proposals for reforms to how the U.S. handles safety recalls and penalizes automakers are winding through a Senate committee.
A proposal backed by three Senate Democrats would make automakers include a recall warning light in the dashboard of new cars to notify owners of a safety recall and lift the cap on delayed recall fines and more. A less-aggressive proposal put forward by Republicans would require dealers to notify owners if their cars have been recalled, something most automakers already do but aren’t required by law.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 25 percent of recalls are never completed.
Every Canadian consumer knows that when it comes to new car prices, we get screwed. Yes, Canada is a small market with higher taxes. It costs more to do business here in part because the high distribution costs can’t be amortized over 300-odd million people. In addition, things like metric instruments further complicate things.
But then there’s the question of why a Toyota RAV4, built two hours outside of Toronto, costs $2,890 less in Hawaii than it does in Canada. Why does an Oshawa-built Camaro demand a $4,685 premium in Canada? Where does BMW get off charging a $19,300 premium in the Great White North for a 535i xDrive, a 38.9 percent increase over the U.S. sticker?
Cracks continued to in the ethanol industry’s once-impregnable political vanguard, as the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Senate has voted to roll back the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) as well as import tariffs on foreign-produced ethanol. This rollback of multi-billion-dollar ethanol credits failed earlier in the week, when the Detroit News reports automakers came out in opposition of a bill that would have required that 95% of all cars built in the US be capable of running 85% ethanol by 2017. The Senate did fail to pass a repeal of a government ethanol blending mandate that underpins the VEETC, however, and funding is moving forward for ethanol blending pumps. Still, the Senate’s repeal of VEETC alone means taxpayers could save over $5b per year on subsidies, and as one expert puts it
“Looks like we’re going to be relying on the biofuels mandates to make sure blenders use biofuels, rather than bribing them to use it with $6 billion,” [Bruce Babcock, professor of economics and the director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University] said.
In fact, Babcock thinks killing the subsidy could help ethanol because it would come out from the stigma of being a subsidized industry. And removing the subsidy may strengthen support for the mandate, and the tariff on imports.
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has introduced a draft version of his Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010. As TTAC has reported, the bill contains a number of provisions, including mandated pedal distances, mandatory brake override, keyless ignition standards, vehicle event data recorder standards, transmission configuration standards, increased penalties for recall delays, and much, much more. Hit the jump for a full description of the measures under consideration.
The Treasury may be standing by GM’s “payback” claims, but the Congress hasn’t exactly been looking for ways to do the auto industry any favors. In fact, a toxic brew of political fallout from the financial crisis, auto bailout, and Toyota recall scandal has seems to have inspired a backlash against the industry that came to a head this week in the US Senate. Legislation has been introduced that would prevent NHTSA officials from taking jobs with automakers for up to three years after they leave the agency, and yet more is being drafted which could require a vast array of standard safety equipment on all cars sold in the US and could even add a federal fee to new car sales. Adding insult to injury, a much-hoped for exception to dealer financing oversight in the new financial reform bill appears to have fallen victim to Senate negotiations. Did nobody tell the old guys that they’re investors in the auto industry? (Read More…)