By on July 24, 2008

Do you really want to know what happened?The LA Times reports that a federal appeals court has ruled that the government may not withhold Early Warning data from the public. The info is collected in accordance with federal law requiring vehicle and component manufacturers to report information on their products (related to defects, injuries, deaths) to The National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA). The law was passed in 2000 in response to the Explorer/Firestone rollover scare. Until now, the information has been shielded from Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Public Citizen forced the fork-over. To which The Rubber Manufacturers Association said phooey [paraphrasing]. "With this decision, unverified information released by the government can be misinterpreted and thereby unnecessarily alarm motorists about products that are safe." The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers reckons "data that could cause a company commercial harm" should be withheld, including warranty and service information. The courts must still rule whether all Early Warning data should be made available, or just the information pertaining to cases involving injury and death.

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8 Comments on “Court Rules NHTSA Must Share Early Warning Data...”


  • avatar
    mel23

    Just another demonstration that we live in a corpocracy. I guess we should be surprised that a law somehow passed requiring the data to be reported. Note that one of Nader’s groups shook this loose.

  • avatar
    SpottyB

    In regards to the attached pic:

    All I wanna know is, HOW??!?

  • avatar
    Ralph SS

    Me, too. How? Had to have been airborn, yes?

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    I’m going to side with the companies on this one….

    As an aerospace engineer that has had the pleasure of being deposed twice regarding various company products I’ve seen first hand how data can be twisted if you already have a conclusion in mind – and plaintiff lawyers typically do.

    When performing a Root Cause Analysis, Failure Mode Effects Analysis, or System Safety Analysis a good engineering team is going to put everything on the table; no mater how remote the possibility, and then start quantifying the probabilities.

    I’ve seen first hand how lawyers, (and activists for that matter) latch onto anything that might even remotely back their position (“You wrote an email about this! I have a copy right here…!”) while ignoring higher probability or proven data sets (“…what about the test data that shows this theory was not correct…? Was I wrong to be thorough and look at all possibilities…?”)

    Bottom Line: If a company is not ethical, raw or final data is probably suspect. Rules like the one proposed above only hurts engineering dept’s that play by the rules.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m not sure where to stand on this.

    There’s some merit to holding back this information. Remember the whole Audi 5000 unintended acceleration issue that turned out to be, well, bogus?

    On the other hand, standard operating procedure for claims departments is to stonewall as long as possible, even when there’s real risk.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I’m on the side of turning the lights on. Companies and governments have demonstrated repeatedly that they easily become up to no good when they act is secret.

  • avatar

    While I agree with MikeInCanada that early disclosure can be damaging when the whole story is not in, it is interesting that corporations are treated differently than criminal defendants. If I am accused of robbing a bank, my name is in the newspaper and the state is forced to prove that I did it or drop the charges.

    In many cases of automotive and product safety, the accusations are in and the issue remains outside of public scrutiny. Case in point: SUV’s in general are responsible for roll-over fatalities at a rate far in excess of that for passenger automobiles. Although we don’t know all of the attendant engineering, it is apparent that people have a far higher probability of dying in an SUV rollover than in an automobile. In the case of the Explorer, tire inflation was found to be a part of the equation. Yet because of tort laws which are designed to point the blame, no one ever seemed to ask if people who drove the Explorer were more prone to underinflating their tires than any other segment of the population. We were left with the impression that only on the Explorer would tire inflation be a key safety issue when in fact the tire and its inflation are a key safety factor in any vehicle.

    This system needs overhaul and the way to do it is to turn the lights on.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I’m not sure where to stand on this.

    There’s some merit to holding back this information. Remember the whole Audi 5000 unintended acceleration issue that turned out to be, well, bogus?

    On the other hand, standard operating procedure for claims departments is to stonewall as long as possible, even when there’s real risk..

    I share your feeling on this. One side of me says that misinterpreted data can do harm to the manufacturers when it is not justified. People often panic and act irrationally when presented with something they do not easily understand.

    But, because of the distrust that people have for many corporations, this knee jerk reaction may well be justified. Since the profit over all mentality has become so pervasive, there is real risk that a company will know about defects early on, but either ignore or minimize them.

    I guess my suspicious side wins…more information is better. If a given company knows that early data is going to be known, they may be more likely to do something about it sooner rather than later. If you look at how Ford handled the Bronco II rollover risk, it seems to justify my position.

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