U.S. audit blasts NHTSA for its handling of recalls, Takata airbags

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At least 23 deaths worldwide are linked to faulty Takata airbag inflators. Photo credit: Reuters

UPDATED: 7/18/18 1:49 pm ET – adds details

WASHINGTON — A government audit faulted NHTSA’s oversight of auto recalls and said the agency’s “delayed action” may have hindered the callbacks of vehicles with defective Takata airbags.

The U.S. Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General said in an audit released to Congress Wednesday that NHTSA’s management of vehicle recalls lacks proper oversight. The report found that in the massive Takata airbag recalls the agency did not follow its own procedures to address low recall completion rates and its “delayed action to investigate” complaints may have delayed the expansion of the recalls.

At least 23 deaths worldwide are linked to faulty Takata airbag inflators, including 21 in Honda Motor Co. and two in Ford Motor Co. vehicles. NHTSA did not immediately comment. In a letter with the report, the agency said it did not agree with all of the findings, but agreed to some recommendations sought by the inspector general’s office.

“This is further evidence that the federal auto safety regulator isn’t doing enough to protect the public,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees NHTSA.

NHTSA has come under fire for years over its handling of prior auto safety issues, including sudden unintended acceleration issues in Toyota Motor Co vehicles and faulty ignition switches in General Motors cars.

The Takata issue has sparked the largest auto industry safety recall in history, involving about 100 million inflators among 19 major automakers that began in 2008.

The audit also said “inadequate controls and processes for verifying and collecting manufacturer-reported information have hindered NHTSA’s ability to oversee safety recall implementation.” The audit projected that nearly 11 percent of auto vehicle recalls issued between 2012 and 2016 have missing remedy documents required by law.

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