A lack of agency resources has been a recurring theme of congressional hearings into the GM and Takata recalls. NHTSA allocates just $10 million a year to its roughly 50 staffers who investigate defects in automobiles, buses, commercial vehicles, heavy-duty trucks and child car seats. By comparison, GM alone hired 35 safety investigators this year to beef up its defect investigation department, on top of the staff it already had, CEO Mary Barra told a U.S. House committee in June.
“NHTSA and Dr. Rosekind will face serious challenges and must do a better job discerning danger in cases like those involving GM ignition switches and Takata airbags, which imperiled drivers long after NHTSA had reason to act,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in a statement. “At NHTSA, regulatory capture has created a failure to ask tough questions and has needlessly put lives at risk,” he added, referring to the close relationship between the agency and the industry it regulates.