WASHINGTON -- Bipartisan leaders of a key House committee have asked Congress’ independent watchdog arm for a review of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration amid escalating concern over the agency’s handling of the General Motors ignition switch and Takata airbag recalls.
In a letter to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee requested a review of how NHTSA shares information, how the agency gathers information about auto safety defects and its ability to adapt to changing automotive technology. The letter was signed by committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and other Democratic and Republican leaders.
“As vehicle functions and safety systems become more complex, these findings raise concerns about NHTSA’s process for obtaining data and investigating vehicle defects and the agency’s broader framework and readiness for adapting to technological advances in the industries it oversees,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
The request follows a September report by the committee that blasted NHTSA for failing to take action on GM’s defective ignition switches despite having “ample information” about the problem as early as 2007.
The report, which followed a committee investigation, also cited poor information sharing, a lack of accountability and a poor understanding of how vehicle systems operate as key contributors to the agency’s shortcomings in the GM ignition switch case.
NHTSA last week agreed to brief members of Upton’s committee next week on the agency’s investigation and recalls of vehicles with defective Takata airbags that can spray jagged pieces of metal toward occupants when they deploy. The agency stumbled in its effort to raise public awareness of the airbag defect, publishing inaccurate information about the vehicles affected in its warnings, while its online search tool for pending recalls malfunctioned.
A senior Obama administration official told Bloomberg last week that NHTSA was facing a thorough review of its mistakes and its safety culture by the U.S. Transportation Department.
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