Response to NHTSA’s “Path Forward”

NHTSA’s Path Forward has some refreshing acknowledgements of the agency’s problems. But it still soft-pedals why they have gone from one defect crisis to another.  It is notable what is missing: Any mention of the importance of transparency and acknowledgement of the real depth of the culture that has kept the agency from objectively investigating defects.

For example:

In clinging to preconceived notions, NHTSA investigators routinely reject the findings and analyses from outside of the agency or industry.  While the report mentions the Wisconsin trooper, it again ignores the uncomfortable fact that a plaintiff’s lawyer requested the Timeliness Query that plainly informed them that GM had covered up the defect for years and that it had not recalled all affected vehicles. 

The agency’s lack of transparency continues to undermine public confidence in its competence.  The data and documents often used by the agency to reach its conclusions are unavailable to the public preventing validation of their findings.  Of concern – the report states: 

“NHTSA will reach out to the relevant OEM through a pre-investigative notification of interest, promoting OEM accountability by creating a record that NHTSA has informed the OEM of the issue and reiterating the OEM’s responsibility to provide relevant and timely information about the issue to the agency, including information critical to the potential safety system interactions of the issue.”

NHTSA has previously withheld materials it deems “pre-investigative” from the public while creating substantial records of problems that remain out of view. Will this continue?  

It’s encouraging to see that NHTSA is holding the industry accountable to a higher standard.  The bar was set too low for too long.