By on March 31, 2015


A transportation bill sent to Congress Monday would grant the NHTSA the authority to stop automakers from selling vehicles with dangerous safety problems.

Automotive News reports the bill — the $478-billion, six-year Grow America Act penned by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx — would give the agency “imminent hazard authority” to ground vehicles “in cases where there is an imminent risk of injury or death,” which would be used before a determining a problem exists, and without input from the affected automaker or supplier.

The bill also triples the funding and doubles the staffing for the NHTSA, increases the fine it can levy from $35 million to $300 million; introduces a pilot program to improve the recall process on the owner’s end; requires dealers to check for recalls every time a vehicle comes in for servicing; and mandates that all used and rental vehicles with open recalls to be repaired before sale or rental.

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13 Comments on “NHTSA To Gain Broader Powers Upon Transportation Bill Approval...”

  • avatar

    What/who reimburses the (financial) loss if vehicles are “grounded” and no problem is found?

    • 0 avatar

      Welcome to the cost of doing business. If there is the appearance that your vehicles are killing people, do you want to be forced to pull them off the road, or would you want to invest in ensuring you’re taking care of the customer?

      • 0 avatar

        Any company that willfully kills its customer, doesn’t have a good long-term business plan.

        That said, all “costs of doing business” are passed along.

    • 0 avatar

      Funny you should mention the cars being “grounded”. It would be the same entity that reimburses airlines if no issue is found in response to an Airworthiness Directive: Nobody.

      • 0 avatar

        In the end, the customer reimburses the company through higher prices. Ideally, preventative measures would ensure there’s never a need to ground anything, but in reality stuff happens. Automakers occasionally do this already, with this bill it’ll be at the whim of knee-jerk bureaucrats.

        IMO, this is overkill, but it appeals to populist fears and hatred of corporations, so I’m sure it’ll go through.

  • avatar

    Well, the NHTSA was understaffed (or, at least, their funding and staffing had not risen with the number of vehicles on the road), and I certainly applaud their increased authority to fine. $30M wasn’t a deterrent for anybody. (No chance that they’ll do the same for OSHA though…)

    I would have changed the language slightly on the “no sale or rental” provision. I would have modified it to require disclosure-only if it was a recall calling for parts replacement, and parts were not yet widely available.

    The language allowing the NHTSA to initiate a recall on it’s own authority is valuable, but I suspect that it’s going to get removed the very first time somebody pulls the trigger prematurely.

    The requirement to check for open recalls every time the car is serviced makes sense though, and I think most dealers already do this (to avoid legal liability in a lawsuit.)

  • avatar

    Would “no sale” apply to private sales? How about gifts of vehicles that are then re-titled in the recipient’s name?

    • 0 avatar

      I’d be more concerned if a dealer discovers a recall on a vehicle brought in for service, does that mean he keeps your car until that recall is performed–regardless of how long it means you go without?

      Not that anyone wants to drive a vehicle that carries with it an “imminent risk of injury or death”, but that is vague enough to become problematic.

  • avatar

    Some provisions look good, but let’s remember Toyota. Is the NHTSA better insulated from politics?

    LaHood: I Overstated Toyota Warning

    “Ray LaHood Should Resign Over Toyota”

    “There’s really no other way for him to adequate apologize for the damage he did to Toyota by running his mouth before making sure his brain was in gear.”
    “LaHood later apologized for making the suggestion–but his apology was a little like locking the garage door after the car has been stolen and chopped up for parts. It did little good–at least it did little good for Toyota; GM and Chrysler had a couple of good months there for a while.”

  • avatar

    Give us more money, more authority! Moar!!

    These sort of things always sound good on the surface,such as the ability to stop sale or whatever in the event of a dangerous event.

    Does anyone ever ask what the other side of the balance sheet looks like? A few here have pointed out they jumped the gun on Toyota.

    GM ignition? Maybe. But I argue the public humiliation and costs are pretty significant to GM. Lawsuits as well.

    Do we really have any other examples other than 1 or 2 showing the need for all this additional power, and money?

    And again, it just opens it up for abuse. A little pressure from Michigan lawmakers next time Toyota or Hyundai get in trouble…screws them perhaps needlessly.

    All such rules and laws and power has downsides. I simply don’t see how this is even remotely necessary.

    Don’t get me started on the it’s – never – enough – money mentality of most governments.

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