By on April 8, 2014

United States Capitol

In the wake of the 2014 General Motors recall crisis, Congress has sought to make improvements to current United States automotive safety legislation, though a number of hurdles await any pending bills needed to usher change to the automotive industry.

Automotive News reports the pressure for Congress to act quickly is building against the 24-hour news cycle, as former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator David Strickland explained in January:

Time is always the enemy for any legislative effort in response to a crisis. As you move farther and farther away from the crisis, other things happen in the world. It’s difficult to maintain momentum for things that looked incredibly important just a few months earlier.

One piece of legislation would allow the public access to automakers’ early warning reports and for the NHTSA to “disclose its inspection and investigation activities,” though industry insiders see a deathmatch between the two parties over this legislation while regulators fear less reports would be filed should public access come to pass.

Another action would boost the NHTSA’s fining ability, currently capped at $35 million. Though the current cap is short of the Obama administration’s request for a maximum $200 million fine — and in light of the $1.2 billion settlement between Toyota and the Justice Department — Strickland says the agency should have a “higher penalty authority than what it currently has, for deterrent value.” The NHTSA could also decided upon standardizing algorithms determining when an airbag goes off if the industry doesn’t self-regulate first.

However, any legislation would have to go through a number of important representatives and senators, including Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, as well as face the possibility of being attached to must-pass infrastructure bills such as the $302 billion, four-year highway bill proposed by President Barack Obama to provide much-needed repairs and replacements of U.S. roads and bridges.

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6 Comments on “Congress Looks To Revamp Automotive Safety Legislation...”

  • avatar

    What the hell would they need to fine 200m for? Is the likelihood of an automaker committing genocide looming?

    If you set clear guidelines and don’t try to push the envelope with regulation it would make manufacturing a much cheaper affair. As is now its a wonder manufacturers take the risk of staying in business. Let me be clear this isn’t in defense of any manufacturer in particular but rather as a whole.

  • avatar

    Well, fines do have to be sufficiently large to have any deterrent effect. Otherwise they just make the calculation that there will be some fleabite fine and go ahead with something that violates the spirit, if not the actual letter, of the law. In today’s world a measly 35 million is nothing.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Confidential settlements, fines and judgments, even multimillion dollar ones, are simply license fees, a cost of doing business. Stiff executive jail terms are much more likely to correct an issue permanently.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. Expanding the definition of “due care” and placing legal liabilities on management would be a much greater incentive to get their act together than handing over cash to the government. But you know, the government loves cash and execs hate going to jail so I don’t hold out much hope.

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    As long as they spend the same amount of time drafting feasible and efficient regulations as it took GM to go through bankruptcy then I don’t see any problems with this whatsoever. (sarcasm included)

  • avatar

    The first thing to decide in any investigation is whether the event is merely an accident or a special event. QA says don’t change the system for a special event, or you’ll chase your tail forever to eliminate something which really does not matter.

    Of course, when the lamebrains enter the scene, whether politicos or senior execs, all rationality departs forthwith.

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