WASHINGTON -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is poised to take action in the coming weeks on two long-running safety recalls that it views as progressing too slowly, the agency’s top official said.
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said today that two working groups at the agency have developed a “range of options” for next steps the agency can take on the recall of 1.56 million older Jeep SUVs for fuel tanks that could rupture in a crash and the widespread Takata airbag inflator recalls, which have affected some 25 million vehicles worldwide since 2008.
“The most important thing was to be able to generate a range of options for us to kind of decide where we want to address these issues in a strategic but timely way,” Rosekind said. “For both [the Takata and Jeep recalls], I think we’re one or two weeks away from actually having some concrete things to start taking action on.”
Rosekind declined to specify the options on the table, but the agency has been dissatisfied with the overall pace of repairs under the recalls. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that the agency may consider reopening an investigation into the Jeep recalls after reviewing how many of the Jeeps were repaired in the first quarter. NHTSA has also been mulling an order to speed up the pace of repairs under the Takata recalls.
Some 17 million U.S. vehicles have been recalled for Takata airbag inflators that may explode in a crash and spray vehicle occupants with metal shards, a problem linked to at least six deaths and many more injuries. The recalls began to grow significantly last summer and accelerated through late last year, when several automakers, under pressure from NHTSA, extended recalls of driver-side airbags that had been limited to high-humidity regions and issued them nationwide.
It’s unclear exactly how many of the vehicles recalled for Takata airbags have been repaired, but anecdotal evidence indicates that the vast majority remain unfixed. For example, American Honda had repaired 815,298 out of roughly 5.39 million vehicles included in its largest Takata-related recall through the first quarter of 2015, according to recall documents posted on NHTSA’s web site.
“Overall we think everything’s been too slow,” Rosekind said.
Efforts to speed the Takata and Jeep recalls comes as NHTSA pushes automakers to adopt a more proactive stance on safety issues. Rosekind says he wants automakers to strive to repair 100 percent of recalled vehicles.
NHTSA is planning a summit of major automaker CEOs this summer to discuss the safety culture at each company, and an April 28 workshop in Washington, D.C., to devise ways to improve the recall system.
The Retooling Recalls workshop next week, Rosekind says, “isn’t just a conversation” but a venue where he expects to see concrete proposals by the auto industry to improve the effectiveness of the recall process.
“Everyone absolutely agrees that there are problems with notifications, parts availability and the timeliness of getting these done,” Rosekind said. “By the end of the day, we want solutions.”