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Is the NHTSA Effectively Dealing with Vehicle Defects?

» Posted September 6, 2016Resources | Share This Post

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is supposed to hold car makers accountable for problems, protect the public from unsafe vehicles, and help facilitate recalls when problems happen with cars. Unfortunately, there is ample evidence to suggest that the NHTSA may not be as effective in this as it should be.  Months ago, a Department of Transportation audit criticized the NHTSA for its failure to hold car manufacturers responsible for vehicle defects. Now, Consumerist reports that a second audit has also showed problems.

If the NHTSA cannot effectively police car manufacturers, and if car manufacturers do not act on their own to make sure they aren't releasing defective cars, consumers will continue to be burdened with millions of defective vehicles being sold to them. When you buy a car that has defects, you may be able to pursue remedies under the California’s lemon law, but you need to know your rights.

NHTSA Investigators Lack the Training to Properly Identify Defects

According to the latest Consumerist report, the new audit, which was conducted by the Office of Inspector General, revealed that the NHTSA has not yet implemented necessary programs to make the agency more effective at dealing with defects.

In particular, the Administration has not instituted a training program for investigators to help them develop a better understanding of cars. Because the program has not begun operating, the report warned that investigators from the NHTSA “may not be sufficiently trained to identify and investigate potential vehicle defects or to ensure that vehicle manufacturers take prompt and effective action to remediate issues.”

In response to prior recommendations, promises were also made to conduct audits after training. Steps were supposed to be put into place to evaluate whether employees had developed appropriate knowledge of course objectives. There were also supposed to be annual reviews of the training which was being offered, and evaluations of training materials were supposed to have been conducted. None of this has occurred.

Unfortunately, there are also other problems as well besides just a lack of adequate training. New procedures were supposed to be put into place to make sure investigators were properly documenting consumer complaints and properly documenting meetings with auto makers.

While the new procedures were implemented, they are not being enforced and there are not any mechanisms in place to ensure that the procedures will actually be complied with.

Supervisors are not even reviewing the case management system to make certain that there is proper documentation of any preliminary work which is supposed to have been done before official investigations.  Up to 42 percent of cases where potential problems were reviewed in 2013 issue evaluations had no documentation at all of the pre-investigation work which may have been performed.

The agency claims it is working to implement suggestions, but some of the recommendations that it is still working on were made back in 2011. Obviously, when people's safety is at stake, the agency needs to do better.  It is consumers who suffer when cars have problems, and consumers need to know their rights if they buy a new car with lots of issues. The lemon law provides protections for Orange County consumers and others, but it will be important to get legal help to understand all possible options. 


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"Had nothing but problems with my car. Jordan did a great job with getting Honda to listen and ended up settling. Im so glad Bickel helped me."

The Bickel Law Firm, Inc.