A scandal uncovered by one agency has led another to consider cracking down on the auto industry. The Environmental Protection Agency recently discovered that Volkswagen carefully engineered software to skirt U.S. emissions standards. VW diesel vehicles were programmed to run differently when being tested than during normal operation. After an EPA investigation, Volkswagen could be fined billions of dollars for its actions. The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggested that the actions of VW’s executives demonstrate the need for tighter regulation in the realm of safety.
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind indicated that the agency has room to carry out an investigation into VW based on its duplicitous actions. The EPA investigation will naturally target fuel economy and emissions. An NHTSA investigation would target the potential safety implications of the actions and culture at VW.
On a broader scale, Mr. Rosekind suggested that major and minor transgressions might be taking place at other automakers. VW’s willingness to flout EPA regulations in such a brazen and calculated manner caused the NHTSA head to consider the state of the auto industry and its relationship to the regulatory community. His comments to the press included a statement that the NHTSA needs to “question every bit of information provided by automakers.”
In addition to the latest scandal involving VW, Mr. Rosekind cited the actions of General Motors concerning its defective ignition switches, Takata Corp. and its defective air bags, and Fiat Chrysler for actions concerning its recall process and safety practices. He said that the authority of the NHTSA to penalize and regulate the industry is low. Mr. Rosekind has repeated requests for more manpower and the authority to levy larger fines against auto makers and parts companies that violate safety regulations.
Source: The Car Connection, “NHTSA: We Don’t Even Know What’s Real Anymore,” by Richard Read, 23 September 2015