Manufacturers Are "First Line of Defense" in Auto Safety, NHTSA Lawyer Says | Edmunds

Manufacturers Are "First Line of Defense" in Auto Safety, NHTSA Lawyer Says


Just the Facts:
  • Vehicle manufacturers are the "first line of defense" in automotive safety, Kevin Vincent, chief counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told engineers at the 2014 Society of Automotive Engineers conference on Tuesday.
  • Vincent's remarks came as both NHTSA and General Motors are being questioned about their handling of the recall of 2.6 million GM vehicles for ignition-switch defects.
  • Vincent said he would not address the GM recall or answer any questions about it.

DETROIT — Vehicle manufacturers are the "first line of defense" in automotive safety, Kevin Vincent, the chief counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told engineers at the 2014 Society of Automotive Engineers conference on Tuesday.

Vincent's remarks came at a time when both NHTSA and General Motors are under fire for their handling of the recall of 2.6 million GM vehicles.

Vincent began his speech by saying that he would "not address" the GM recall "or answer any questions" about it.

But later in his speech to the assembly of engineers he said: "The first line of defense against defects is not NHTSA. It's the manufacturers who are responsible for identifying and reporting defects as soon as they're identified."

Vincent cautioned: "We will hold the companies accountable if they fail to report defects in a timely manner."

He also called upon the engineers themselves to take the initiative in reporting vehicle defects as they are discovered.

Vincent was a late replacement for NHTSA Acting Administrator David J. Friedman who was originally scheduled to address the conference. Although Friedman last week testified before Congress about the GM situation, his absence was not believed to be related to the recall. A statement from the SAE simply said he was "not able to attend the event."

The U.S. Congress is investigating whether NHTSA and GM acted quickly enough to recall models, including the 2005-'10 Chevrolet Cobalt, for defective ignition switches that could turn off the cars' electrical systems, disabling power steering, power brakes and airbags. GM has said that crashes resulting from the defective switches have killed 13 people.

Last week, GM CEO Mary Barra told Congress that the company would take "appropriate next steps" and that it had begun exploring options for compensating crash victims and their families.

According to the latest information from GM's Ignition Update Web site, "Letters will be sent soon informing customers to schedule an appointment with their dealer once parts arrive."

Edmunds says: Consumers want to know where the buck stops with recalls and get a little insight from one federal official.

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