By on April 13, 2015

2014 Summer TCA Tour - Day 1

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Mark Rosekind is calling for a summit with industry CEOs to improve automotive safety.

Automotive News reports Rosekind wants to hold the summit as soon as June to discuss with the CEOs of automakers how each of their companies handle safety and defect issues, and ways to improve upon those approaches. He plans to invite the CEOs of the Detroit Three, as well as those helming foreign automakers with business in the United States, though formal invitations, timing, location and other details have yet to be sorted.

Prior to the summit, Rosekind and the NHTSA is hosting a recall workshop later this month to determine the best methods for bettering the recall process. The all-day workshop will be held at the Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington, and will feature presentations from automakers, suppliers, dealers and the agency itself.

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6 Comments on “NHTSA’s Rosekind Calling For Automaker Safety Summit...”

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    It would be better if he held a summit with other governing bodies that create, uphold and enforce automotive safety rules. Maybe if he started with getting the governments to agree, then he’d have some leverage with the automakers.

  • avatar

    I think the easiest solution is to abandon NHTSA and its FMVSS then adopt de facto international standards, UN-ECE WP29. That would eliminate the separate engineering resources to design two variations of same vehicle for US market and for the rest of the world.

    Clearly, NHTSA has proved to be a laughing stock since its establishment in 1970. Don’t get me started on Joan Claybrook, one of the most imcompetent persons ever to chair NHTSA. Battle ram bumpers, anyone? Jaundiced headlamps from 1983 onward, yes? Taillamps with least common denomination function as acceptable safety feature, right? Killer airbags as excellent death weapons, or?

    While we are at it, we need to nullify Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972 (Pub.L. 92–513) that gave the manufacturers so much clout in watering down the safety regulations. Don’t forget to eliminate the ‘honor system’ of doing the compliance tests by the manufacturers themselves. UN-ECE requires the components and vehicles be evaluated and certified by the government agencies throughout the world.

  • avatar

    It’s interesting that a bureaucrat/politician wants automakers to defend what they are doing about safety. As far as I’ve been able to determine, every safety technology and feature that makes modern cars so much safer than those of just 15 or 20 years ago, let alone from 60 and 70 years ago, was developed by automakers or their suppliers, not NHTSA or any government agency.

    Bela Barenyi at Mercedes-Benz invented crush zones and passenger safety cells. Nils Bohlin at Volvo invented the three point seat belt / shoulder harness, and Volvo gave away the patent. A while back I wrote for TTAC about the Eaton corp’s development of the first practical airbags for Ford in the 1970s.

    All of those genuine improvements in automotive safety have been overshadowed by the activism of Ralph Nader and his acolytes like Joan Claybrook. Lee Iacocca’s statement “Styling sells cars, safety does not” (and its corruption “safety doesn’t sell”) has been removed from its historical context of the market failure of Ford’s 1956 “Lifeguard” package of safety equipment including seat belts.

    Speaking of Ford, the ‘smoking gun’ in the Pinto fire lawsuits, was an improvement developed by a Ford engineer that was not implemented. Now one can certainly discuss the questionable morality of making product safety decisions based on a calculus for the value of human life, but you can’t say that they didn’t care at all about safety or else that engineer wouldn’t have devoted his time to a solution.

    Could automakers have cared more about safety? Sure, but the clear historical record is that they’ve devoted substantial resources to learning how to make cars safer.

    You could argue that the regulations are a chicken/egg situation, without the regs the tech wouldn’t have been implemented or developed. However, regulations haven’t created the technologies, and in many cases the regs, like the environmental stuff in CFR 49, are based on best available technologies.

    I’d like to see parts of the EPA and DOT/NHTSA budgets be diverted from regulatory and enforcement schemes to funding safety technology research, either through grants or directly with labs like the Livermore facility.

    • 0 avatar

      “the market failure of Ford’s 1956 “Lifeguard” package of safety equipment including seat belts.”

      Ford’s LifeGuard largely failed because it added expense, wasn’t at all well-implemented, and, most importantly, GM directly advertised against it.

      It really makes the point that regulation is the only effective way to get safety and environmental technologies implemented; they’re prime examples of the kinds of things where costs for not doing them are highly externalized. The point where safety and/or environmental issues become a cost to the producer is much, much further in the future than when they’d be of benefit to the producer.

      Or, to put it another way, industry wouldn’t so much as bat an eye at thousands of extra deaths per year—and they’ve proved this through actions—until it affected their bottom line. We have a word for that kind of attitude: it’s called sociopathy.

      • 0 avatar

        “It really makes the point that regulation is the only effective way to get safety and environmental technologies implemented;”

        This statement completely ignores the countless safety improvements made to automobiles in the U.S. over the 6 decades prior to the advent of the first FMVSS. Even after the first FMVSS was implemented, highway deaths still went up because people didn’t care and weren’t using seat belts even though they were mandated. It took a generation of education and changing of popular attitudes towards safety to get to where we are now.

        Today automakers are well ahead of regulation on the safety front, offering many safety features that aren’t mandated. They offer them because want them and will pay for them.

    • 0 avatar

      Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      This isn’t about “how each of their companies handle safety and defect issues, and ways to improve upon those approaches” but more about how to find methods to assign blame to an automaker in future.

      I’d say most automakers have better processes and engineers in place than the NHTSA.

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