House Dems defend NHTSA: ‘The fault here lies squarely with GM’

The Detroit News

Two House Democ­rats crit­i­cized a Repub­li­can report that harsh­ly crit­i­cized the Nation­al High­way Traf­fic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion for fail­ing to dis­cov­er defects in Gen­er­al Motors cars linked to at least 19 deaths and 54 crash­es.

The 44-page report from the House Ener­gy and Com­merce major­i­ty staff said the agency suf­fered a series of fail­ures and made “inex­cus­able” mis­takes in fail­ing to dis­cov­er the GM prob­lem. It ques­tion the agency’s tech­ni­cal com­pe­tence, use of ana­lyt­ic soft­ware, train­ing and focus.

But Hen­ry A. Wax­man, D-Calif., the top Demo­c­rat on the pan­el, and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who is the rank­ing mem­ber of the sub­com­mit­tee that over­sees NHTSA, took issue with some find­ings.

The report almost com­plete­ly ignores the role played by GM. GM had the same infor­ma­tion as NHTSA — but also knew much, much more. GM allowed the defec­tive switch to be installed in these vehi­cles; for over a decade, the com­pa­ny had the oppor­tu­ni­ty and respon­si­bil­i­ty to take action to fix this dead­ly prob­lem — yet failed to do so. The fault here lies square­ly with GM,” the pair said.

They acknowl­edged the “report cor­rect­ly iden­ti­fies a num­ber of key oppor­tu­ni­ties where NHTSA offi­cials could have act­ed to recall the defec­tive GM vehi­cles. NHTSA has right­ly been crit­i­cized for these missed oppor­tu­ni­ties.”

The Democ­rats also crit­i­cized Repub­li­cans for not mov­ing faster on leg­is­la­tion. “Going for­ward, our top pri­or­i­ty is mean­ing­ful con­gres­sion­al action to help make the dri­ving pub­lic safer. The Motor Vehi­cle Safe­ty Act of 2014 would pro­vide NHTSA with more resources, hold the agency to a high­er stan­dard of account­abil­i­ty, and make vehi­cle data and agency actions more trans­par­ent so that safe­ty prob­lems could be iden­ti­fied and rec­ti­fied quick­ly. But Repub­li­cans have not act­ed on this or any auto safe­ty leg­is­la­tion,” they said. “There is still time to improve auto safe­ty in this coun­try and to demand more from both car com­pa­nies and reg­u­la­tors. Repub­li­cans should act quick­ly to pass leg­is­la­tion that solves the auto safe­ty prob­lems they iden­ti­fied in their report.”

In July, Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said he planned to intro­duce auto safe­ty leg­is­la­tion.

“We’ve got to fig­ure out what hap­pened. We’re going to come back, I think, with leg­is­la­tion lat­er on maybe this year, maybe ear­ly next year — once we get enough,” Upton told WWMT-TV in Kala­ma­zoo. “What went wrong? Why were the dots not con­nect­ed?”

In a state­ment Mon­day, Upton said he wasn’t decid­ed on intro­duc­ing leg­is­la­tion.

“We’ll keep look­ing for answers, and keep work­ing toward solu­tions – whether it means chang­ing our laws or press­ing for change at the com­pa­nies that fol­low them and the agen­cies that enforce them – but we know for sure that NHTSA was part of the prob­lem and is going to have to be part of the solu­tion,” Upton said.


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