The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a public warning about the potential hazard represented by driving cars equipped with Takata airbags in areas with high humidity.
The federal regulator issued a notice urging all vehicle owners of the affected models – around 8 million vehicles today from Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi, BMW, Chrysler, GM and Ford – to bring their cars to services and complete the recall campaigns that started in 2013.
There’s only one problem – the agency has directed the 8 million customers that drove cars with potentially lethal defective airbags to a website that was actually useless. The government-run safercar.gov’s search function was down – and that was the tool to be used by owners to determine if their car was at risk. Among the effects was the fact that the NHTSA had to change a consumer advisory where some vehicles actually were not involved and 3 million others were.
According to Joan Claybrook, a former administrator of the agency who today is an advocate of consumer safety, the NHTSA failure is a “total meltdown.” “It’s a royal embarrassment,” Claybrook said. “It totally undermines trust in the agency.” The problem also comes just as the regulator has come under US congress scrutiny because of its slow response to the other huge recall scandal of the year – GM’s ignition switch debacle.