By Gabe Nelson, Crain News Service
WASHINGTON (June 30, 2014) — Pointing to the lapses that led to General Motors Co.'s ignition switch crisis, the chairman of the U.S. Senate committee that oversees auto safety proposed a bill late June 26 that would give U.S. regulators more funding and greater power to deal with safety defects in automobiles.
The legislation from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., the outgoing chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, would give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) authority to order dangerous vehicles off the road, rather than merely advising customers not to drive them.
And it would authorize more funding for NHTSA, with some of that money coming from “user fees” that auto makers would pay based on their U.S. vehicle sales.
The user fees would start one year after enactment of the law at $3 per vehicle sold. They would rise to $6 per vehicle for the second year and $9 for the third year, after which they would be adjusted annually for inflation.
“For the past 15 years, many of us have attempted to bolster NHTSA's authority, precisely to better prevent tragedies like the deaths caused by GM's faulty ignition switches,” Sen. Rockefeller—who is not running for re-election this fall—said in a statement June 26. “While we've made some progress, ultimately we've been blocked from fully providing NHTSA with the adequate resources and authorities it needs.
“Everything we've learned in the past months through our committee investigation into GM has made it absolutely clear that it's time to put our differences aside. We've got to act now and support NHTSA if we're going to minimize the chances of another heartbreaking tragedy.”