Total Recall Failure: Only 51 NHTSA Employees per 248 Million U.S. Cars
51 versus 248 million is a lop-sided contest, no matter the competition, but when it involves the safety of American drivers, something has to change. According to reports, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration– the group that automakers and journalists regard so highly when they reference safety scores– is terribly underfunded and understaffed. According to Bloomberg, the NHTSA has had its staff cut by one fifth and its budget ‘stagnate’ in the years since the Ford Explorer safety scandal in 2000. Following that incident, the government passed legislation that was indented to support NHTSA’s defect investigation team. RELATED: See images of the 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Turbo Coupe
But since then, the number of cars on the road has risen to 248 million, and the defect team’s staff was cut to just 51. The office’s budget since 2005 has been locked in at $10 million, which experts argue is a painfully low number. According to the report, vehicle defect complaints are coming in, but there simply is not enough man power to address them and respond.
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Since 2000, Toyota has gone through the whole unindented acceleration fiasco, and more recently, there was the initial failure to recall 1.6 million Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac G6’s. That incident, which involved a jostling key ring that could cause the engine to stall and airbags to deploy, is connected to 12 deaths. An official connection between the cut in resources and this incident has not been established, but safety experts are basically saying the two are linked.
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General Motors CEO Mary Barra and NHTSA’s acting administrator, David Friedman are set to testify on April 1, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It is unclear if that will yield improvements or an increase in resources for the embattled safety administration.