US: NHTSA seeks larger budget to contain auto safety crises image

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to make sure another 60 million plus recall year would not come twice – and for that it needs above else one thing: more money.

According to the auto safety regulator, avoiding another repeat of the 2014 “Year of the Recall” hinges on increased manpower – and that means additional cash. The NHTSA is eager to avoid repeating crises – such as GM’s ignition switch debacle or Takata airbag inflator scandal. Last year, GM recalled 2.6 million older cars that were equipped with a defective ignition switch that led to a fatality count of at least 51 persons. Additionally, Japan’s Takata Corp, the second largest auto safety parts maker, had an unidentified issue with its airbag inflators, which could explode with excessive force and send metal shrapnel inside the cabin at high velocity. Ten automakers were affected by the problem and at least five deaths have been reported so far.

The agency, a part of the Department of Transportation, has a small budget and is now actively supporting the Obama Administration’s drive to triple the available funding for the Office of Defects Investigation from $10.7 million to $31 million. “It’s no longer reasonable frankly to expect an office with 8 screeners and 16 defects investigators to adequately analyze 75,000 complaints a year,” commented Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. With the new budget approved, the agency’s ODI would have at least 56 full-time positions, up from the current 28. The administration actually wants to hire 57 persons for the agency that today has more than 100 employees in order to increase the recall completion levels by factoring in better data mining and monitoring tools.