NHTSA Takes Liberal Stance on Issuing Recalls

By Jacob Brown | July 16, 2013
Cars are evolving with new technology and features that weren't even imaginable 30 years ago. Laws take a lot longer to progress. To reach a happy medium in ensuring safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a rolling policy on how to recall a vehicle, saying that it should fall into a "zone of reasonable risk." Take the Jeep Grand Cherokee, for instance. When a model that was recently recalled was made, it was normal for automakers to have gas tanks placed behind the rear axle of their vehicles. Just a few weeks ago, the NHTSA said Jeep needed to recall its 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee models because their gas tanks could catch fire in the event of a rear-end collision. Jeep officials scoffed at the decision, refusing to issue a recall. The two sides eventually found common ground, and now Jeep will be installing tow hitches on all those models to better protect their gas tanks. "It really is based on the notion of unreasonable risk. And that is an evolving notion," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in an interview with Automotive News. The agency said that it would change standards "if state of the art moves all the peers in one direction, and it appears that there is another part of the fleet that has not made those same moves or improvements."
"It's very hard to change or upgrade a federal motor vehicle safety standard," he added. "Sometimes it can be decades. Sometimes it can be 20 or 30 years." While all recalls are recorded by the NHTSA, most recalls are issued by the automaker instead of the government these days. Automakers often find problems with their cars when handling customer complaints or just logging miles on their vehicles. About two-thirds of last year's recalls were found by the automakers themselves; not through an NHTSA investigation. Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)