NHTSA plans summit to promote culture of auto safety
By Ryan Beene, Crain News Service
WASHINGTON (April 10, 2015) — The nation's top auto safety official wants automakers to adopt a more proactive safety culture and plans to host two events this year to drive the message home.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Mark Rosekind wants to hold a summit with the CEOs of auto makers as early as June to discuss how each company handles vehicle safety and defect issues, and how those approaches can be improved.
NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge said the timing, location and details of the gathering are still being worked out, but said Mr. Rosekind plans to invite the Detroit 3 CEOs and top U.S. officials of foreign companies, though no formal invitations have been sent.
“We're not reacting to a specific event or a crisis. This is a more [general] reaction to what the administrator has seen and conversations he has had about the safety culture in the industry,” Mr. Trowbridge said.
“We're trying to get on top of these sorts of issues before they happen, before we have a crisis that requires us to call the industry in and say that ‘this is unacceptable and you must change your ways.'”
The planned summit was reported earlier by The Detroit News after Mr. Rosekind spoke to reporters on the sidelines of the New York auto show Thursday.
He suggested auto makers could learn from the airline industry, which he praised as more proactive than reactive when it comes to consumer safety, the News reported.
Mr. Rosekind took over NHTSA in December. The auto industry and agency have come under heavy criticism from U.S. lawmakers and consumer advocates after General Motors Co. failed to promptly recall millions of vehicles with faulty ignition switches, and a similar failure by Honda Motor Co. and Takata Corp. to promptly recall millions of vehicles equipped with defective Takata airbags.
Mr. Rosekind has said that more recalled vehicles need to be fixed and that defects must be identified more quickly.
The summit and an April 28 recall workship with the auto industry are early signs of how Rosekind, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board and NASA scientist, is seeking to turn his calls into action.
Before the CEO summit, NHTSA will host a public workshop on April 28 to find ways to ensure that more recalled vehicles are actually fixed. The all-day workshop, “Retooling Recalls,” is being held at the Department of Transportation's headquarters in Washington, and will include presentations by NHTSA, auto makers, suppliers and dealers.
The goal, Mr. Trowbridge said, is to explore the reasons only 65 percent of recalled vehicles are taken in for repairs in an average year, according to a 2011 government analysis.
“The administrator has said pretty consistently that the current completion rate that we see on vehicles … is not high enough and that our goal should be to remedy every single vehicle with a defect,” Mr. Trowbridge said. “By end of that event, he'd like to see some solutions.”
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