GM recall might have begun sooner with more data, NHTSA head says

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March 12, 2014 – 2:52 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) — U.S. auto-security regulators didn’t force Basic Motors Co. to recall one.6 million vehicles sooner due to the fact the connection amongst defective ignition switches and failing airbags wasn’t clear, the head of the National Highway Site visitors Security Administration explained.

“If we had that data, if GM had presented us with timely info, we would have been able to consider a diverse course with this,” David Friedman, acting administrator for NHTSA, stated in an interview nowadays in Washington.

GM is facing a federal criminal probe and inquiries from NHTSA and each chambers of Congress as to why it did not act sooner to recall the Chevrolet Cobalt and 5 other automobiles over the switch defect now linked to 12 crash deaths. A timeline GM gave regulators final month displays it started investigating complaints about the switch in 2004.

NHTSA has come underneath criticism by car-safety advocates for not following up more aggressively when it raised the ignition-switch issue with GM executives at a meeting in 2007. The company never started out a defect investigation, a step that can lead to a recall.

“We took a number of efforts to search into this information,” Friedman mentioned. “At the finish of the day, with the data we had at that time, we did not feel that was enough to open up a formal investigation.”

Friedman explained NHTSA did 3 crash investigations, 2 of which have been previously disclosed, to better recognize what was happening in situations in which Cobalt airbags did not deploy.

2006 probe

“We are fully cooperating with NHTSA, and we welcome the chance to help the agency have a total understanding of the facts,” GM spokesman Greg Martin explained.

NHTSA looked into complaints that came into the agency to try out to understand how much the Cobalt stood out with peers in respect to airbag failures, Friedman mentioned. The agency obtained 260 complaints associated to the switches, in accordance to the New York Instances.

GM recalled the vehicles when it received new data generating a direct connection among the ignition-switch failures, which had been known for almost a decade, and airbags not going off, Friedman mentioned.

NHTSA sent investigators to document a high-velocity Cobalt crash in Wisconsin in 2006 that killed 2 females in which the engine cut off and airbags did not deploy. The staff recognized a failure related to one particular cited by GM in the recall.

Outdoors investigators hired by NHTSA at that time found 6 similar complaints in company databases and a GM technical service bulletin to dealers acknowledging a faulty switch layout and giving free repairs to consumers who complained.

Former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook asked the Transportation Department’s inspector general to investigate no matter whether the agency failed to meet its legal obligations.

The company “obviously failed to carry out its responsibilities in this case,” Claybrook wrote in a March 6 letter. “No a single is evaluating why NHTSA failed to carry out the law.”

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