By Ryan Beene, Crain News Service
WASHINGTON (Jan. 8, 2015) — Improving the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) vehicle defect analysis and recall system is the top priority of the agency's new administrator, who also vowed to petition Congress for additional resources and authority to bolster the agency.
Mark Rosekind, sworn in as NHTSA administrator on Dec. 22 following confirmation by the Senate, said Jan. 6 that the agency is evaluating its entire recall infrastructure to find improvements. That includes looking at how complaints are collected and reviewed, how defects are investigated and how recalls are managed and executed.
“It doesn't matter what you detect, because if you don't get the recalls taken care of, you've still got that risk,” Mr. Rosekind said. “It's the whole system that has to be looked at.”
A former NASA scientist and member of the National Transportation Safety Board with no direct automotive experience, Mr. Rosekind also acknowledged that he's not very well known in industry circles. He said he plans to approach auto makers with independence, clear expectations, transparency and frequent communication.
‘All about safety'
“For me, it's all about safety. I am open to working with the manufacturers or whoever it is that is going to help move safety forward,” Mr. Rosekind said, noting “if you don't follow the law or you're putting people at risk,” NHTSA will use “every tool that's available” to keep drivers safe.
Mr. Rosekind said he supports increasing the maximum fine NHTSA can levy against auto makers beyond the current $35 million cap.
Mr. Rosekind has begun to meet with some auto makers and plans to meet with more in the coming weeks and months as he begins his tenure at NHTSA. He also said the agency is working to “formalize” some “structured ways to interact with the industry” to approach safety issues that he plans to discuss with auto makers soon, while declining to discuss specifics. Mr. Rosekind is scheduled to speak at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit next Jan. 13.
GM and Takata
The agency has come under fire from lawmakers and safety advocates alike following the General Motors Co. ignition switch and Takata Corp. airbag recalls that have been linked to several deaths and many more injuries. Mr. Rosekind called those cases “latent failures” that first surfaced in NHTSA's recall system up to a decade ago but only fully emerged over time.