House panel calls June 2 hearing on NHTSA handling of airbag recall

Takata Airbag Recall

A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce committee has scheduled a June 2 hearing on the Takata airbag recall.

Plainly upset with the slow pace of the Takata airbag recall, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade has called for a June 2 hearing into the process that led to last week’s historic Takata airbag announcement. At that time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that the airbag manufacturer, which had long dragged its feet dealing with regulators, had agreed to a consent decree under which it acknowledged that its airbags were defective.

Almost immediately, the airbag recall jumped from 17 to 34 million, making the Takata airbag debacle the largest safety recall in U.S. history. The previous record-holder was Ford’s 1981 transmission recall where 21 million vehicles were recalled. The previous largest manufacturer’s total was last year’s 30 General Motors vehicles. That was a combined figure based on 84 recalls.

House Energy and Commerce Committee chair, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., already irate with regulators because of the many faux pas with the General Motors ignition switch recall, was critical of NHTSA’s handling of the recall. He said “We have endured a year of Takata ruptures and recalls and families are still at risk. No excuses…all Americans have a right to answers. When it comes to auto safety, ‘maybe’ is not an acceptable answer, and ‘later’ is not an acceptable timetable. It’s past time for Takata, NHTSA and the manufacturers to explain to drivers what went wrong and how they can fix it.”

Upton’s panel published the scathing report that ripped the NHTSA handling of the General Motors ignition switch recalls last fall. The report said that the agency made “critical mistakes” and failed to find the manufacturer’s defective switches despite “ample evidence of the problem for more than a decade.”

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