Friedman: GM, Not NHTSA, Most To Blame For Recall Crisis

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon
friedman gm not nhtsa most to blame for recall crisis

It was a long day for David Friedman and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during congressional testimony Tuesday, admitting before a Senate panel that his agency has more work to do to improve itself, and that General Motors made “incredibly poor decisions” as far as recalls were concerned.

Automotive News reports Friedman and the NHTSA came under harsh criticism before the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee’s consumer protection subcommittee during this second round of testimony. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri made the deputy administrator aware of the panel’s overall frustration with the excuses for why the NHTSA did not act swiftly in forcing GM to recall vehicles affected by an out-of-spec ignition switch now linked to 19 deaths and 31 injuries.

In turn, Friedman deflected criticism of the agency by placing the blame upon the automaker, proclaiming the execs “were more worried about [the NHTSA] getting information about problems than they were about actually fixing problems.” He added that a “new normal” has since been established upon all automakers, whereupon any defect is immediately reported to the agency, and that it would have “zero tolerance” on those who fail “to act quickly and aggressively” on reporting such flaws.

Regarding the original case, Friedman said that his agency lacked “ample information” in 2007 to determine whether or not a defect was to be found in the aforementioned ignition switch, despite a report by a House committee issued earlier in the day stating the opposite.

After testimony, Sen. McCaskill stated she found Friedman’s statements troubling, proclaiming he was more concerned with rebutting the news media than with taking responsibility for his and his agency’s role in the GM recall crisis.

Join the conversation
2 of 12 comments
  • Wmba Wmba on Sep 17, 2014

    This is a pretty incomplete post compared to sources like Reuters. NHTSA has only 51 investigators. However, if they could argue for funds like EPA, then they could expand into frivolous areas like engine design. Next thing you know, vehicle manufacturers could be forced to use an EPA designed combustion chamber. Just what we all need - a Government 4 valve head. Think I'm kidding? From Society of Automotive Engineers July 23 2014. " As part of its effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel economy for model years 2017 through 2025 light-duty vehicles, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun developing an advanced test engine to demonstrate fuel-saving and emissions-reducing technologies. The test engine is intended to help establish the feasibility of meeting fuel standards through improvements to combustion chamber geometries, fuel injection strategies, fuel composition, valve timing, and intake conditions. In development of the engine, the EPA is using ANSYS FORTÉ CFD software, giving its engineers the ability to quickly and inexpensively make multiple design iterations. ANSYS acquired FORTÉ as part of its acquisition of Reaction Design earlier this year." This is incredibly ridiculous. As if the EPA boy engineers know as much as the real engine designers at established manufacurers. Now they'll start sticking their oar in and creating a fuss on issues they don't understand the basics in. I mean, WTF is going on?

  • Erikstrawn Erikstrawn on Sep 18, 2014

    The NHTSA is between a rock and a hard place. If they had used their authority to force GM they'd be accused of onerous regulation. Since they didn't they're suffering accusations of being worthless and inept. A bureaucracy is very much a "pick your battles" environment, and GM has a lot of powerful backers. Once there was enough evidence (and unfortunately enough deaths) that the ignition switches were undeniably the cause, the NHTSA had the evidence and drive to intervene. Politically the NHTSA had to wait for GM's incompetence to destroy the will of their supporters.

  • Sayahh Is it 1974 or 1794? The article is inconsistent.
  • Laura I just buy a Hyndai Elantra SEL, and My car started to have issues with the AC dont work the air sometimes is really hot and later cold and also I heard a noice in the engine so I went to the dealer for the first service and explain what was hapenning to the AC they told me that the car was getting hot because the vent is not working I didnt know that the car was getting hot because it doesnt show nothing no sign no beep nothing I was surprise and also I notice that it needed engine oil, I think that something is wrong with this car because is a model 23 and I just got it on April only 5 months use. is this normal ? Also my daughter bought the same model and she went for a trip and the car also got hot and it didnt show up in the system she called them and they said to take the car to the dealer for a check up I think that if the cars are new they shouldnt be having this problems.
  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
  • Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.