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Inspector General Calls NHTSA's Competence Regarding Airbag Recalls Into Question

» Posted September 10, 2018Resources | Share This Post

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is having its competence called into questions regarding the way that Takata airbag recalls were handled by the agency. The NHTSA is supposed to provide protection for consumers and one of those obligations is to facilitate and oversee recalls of vehicles with safety defects.

Takata airbags have a particularly dangerous safety defect that has been linked to at least 15 deaths. When the airbags deploy, they essentially explode and send metal throughout the car, which could cause very serious injuries or permanent fatalities. The defect has been known for a long time and a recall has been underway, but the Department of Transportation has slammed the NHTSA for its handling of the problem.

Unfortunately, there are many situations where laws that are supposed to protect consumers are difficult to enforce or not enforced properly. Those who buy vehicles that turn out to have defects should make certain to consult with a Los Angeles lemon law lawyer to find out what options they have for getting help pursuing available legal remedies.

Department of Transportation Calls NHTSA Competence Into Question

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Transportation conducted an audit of how NHTSA handled the Takata airbag recall. This report follows an earlier OIG report prepared in June 2015 that raised questions about NHTSA's competence during a recall involving switch-defects in General Motors ignition switches that resulted in 124 deaths and 274 fatalities.

The report on the GM recall was scathing, and the recent report on the Takata airbag recall also did not have good things to say about the way that the agency performed its rolls.

In fact, the OIG found that NHTSA staff were “fickle” and they failed to properly document decisions that they made during the recall process. The OIG also found that NHTSA's data-gathering process did not work appropriately.

The OIG found that NHTSA first opened an investigation into the Takata airbag problem in 2009 when Honda recalled a few thousand cars for defective Takata airbags. When NHTSA began its investigation, Takata disclosed to the agency that it had made 100 million inflators with the same propellent that was causing the problems in the Hondas. Despite this advanced warning that the issue with the airbags was widespread, the NHTSA closed its investigation six months later when Takata assured the agency it had limited the problem.

When more complaints came in, including one from a driver whose exploding Takata airbag blinded him, NHTSA didn't open another case in 2013. It wasn't until media inquiries in 2014 raised the issue that the NHTSA began to investigate again. And, the agency downplayed its results when it did. 

NHTSA also didn't oversee the recall process after NHTSA released a consent order that resulted in Takata pleading guilty to criminal charges.

Unfortunately, the recall has not gone efficiently still and there remain millions of cars with defective airbags on the roads. This report makes clear that agency aimed to protect the consumers don't always do their job, and there's very real consequences when they don't.

For car owners with vehicles that have problems, contacting a Los Angeles lemon law attorney to get help pursuing a claim is often the best approach to take.


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