David Friedman, deputy administrator of NHTSA and its interim leader during the 2014 General Motors recall crisis, is leaving his position, the agency confirmed today.
Friedman will leave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to become a senior U.S. Energy Department official in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
“It has been a true honor and privilege to work with the people of NHTSA to make a real difference in safety for all who share America’s roads,” Friedman said in an emailed statement.
The Detroit News reported Friedman’s move late Thursday.
The job change for Friedman comes as NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind has begun a restructuring of the agency after a government audit lambasted NHTSA last month for its systematic operations problems and insufficient staff.
Rosekind praised Friedman for his leadership though a record-shattering year for recalls in 2014 when U.S. automakers recalled nearly 64 million vehicles, including the 2.6 million vehicles GM recalled for faulty ignition switches.
“He has been an invaluable resource, helping me learn about the agency and our work, and all of us at NHTSA owe him thanks for his service during one of the agency’s toughest times,” Rosekind said.
Friedman, formerly a transportation analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, was hired by former NHTSA Administrator David Strickland in 2013. His background in science and engineering had situated him as the agency’s fuel economy expert during a midterm review of NHTSA’s fuel economy guidelines, set to end in 2018.
“David stepped up to lead NHTSA at a time of tremendous challenge for the agency,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Under his guidance, NHTSA developed many of the enforcement approaches that have helped strengthen the agency’s oversight of the auto industry, including a record $126 million in civil penalties in 2014, exceeding the total collected in the previous four decades.”
Friedman has also led the agency during the recent Takata Corp. airbag crisis, cracking down on the supplier’s handling of the issue. He also recently clashed with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, criticizing the automaker for slow response and poor handling of safety issues.
Ryan Beene contributed to this report