An investigation by the New York Times has found that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's handling of major safety defects over the past decade has been slow in identifying and acting on problems.
The Times found that many major recalls, including the G.M. ignition defect and Honda air bag ruptures, the agency did not take a leading role until well after the problems had reached a crisis level and motorists were injured or killed.
For example, by the time GM began recalling cars this year for ignition defects, the agency had logged more than 2,000 complaints about the issue in the recalled models.
Also, in February GM published an article advertising its 2014 Chevys had earned more five-star overall ratings in a new car assessment than any other vehicle. The next day, they began recalling millions of its cars, and by August, six of the eight Chevrolet models had been recalled for various safety issues.
The rankings had been awarded by the NHTSA.
Not only does the agency spend about as much money rating new cars as it does investigating defects, but it also failed to make a question regarding fatal accidents mandatory.
As of this month, GM has recalled about 16.5 million vehicles for igntion-related problems.
In 2000, Congress passed a law requiring automakers to report to the safety agency any claims they received blaming defects for serious injuries or death. However, the agency has allowed automakers to conceal important information by not requiring full disclosures when confronted with follow-up questions. GM chose not answer inquiries regarding at least three of the 13 fatal crashes that are linked to the ignition defect.