The US auto safety regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has long been facing criticism of acting too slow and with little force, but after it finally received a new administrator after January has started showing its “watchdog” qualities.
The agency’s new boss – Mark Rosekind – is eager to show its safety expert credentials and the US administration has also decided to harden its policy after last year’s record number of recalls and two major scandals. Last year both General Motors and Japan’s Takata Corp., a safety parts supplier, alongside its eleven automaking clients, yielded the highest level of recalled vehicles in the United States in history. So, after Rosekind took office back in January, he started to use the full extent pf legal powers to coerce the companies to shed reluctance and recall millions of flawed autos. The agency last week finally convinced Takata to acknowledge the defective airbag inflators and both announced a recall of 34 million vehicles – the largest single-defect safety campaign in the US, no matter the product. It also called for a rather rare public hearing this July to reassess Fiat Chrysler’s way of doing recalls that span over ten million units – with the company also eligible for penalties of up to $700 million.
Rosekind also took over the agency after last year the NHTSA has been publicly panned by the public and US Congress because of its inability to react faster to the two major safety crises. “We brought him in to bring it,” comments Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Having someone who personifies the kind of aggressiveness with which we expect the agency to operate is healthy.” Numerous officials said the recalls were not always the main concern of earlier administrators.