My, how times have changed. When Treasury owned a major part of General Motors, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) couldn’t be bothered to probe a dozen deaths and hundreds of complaints from an ignition-switch defect. Now that the defect and the lack of response from both GM and the NHTSA have come to light, two Democrats in the Senate want the government agency to issue an order to mandate that owners stop driving the affected vehicles until the repairs are done:
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said a “park it now” order should be issued to drivers of the recalled cars by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The lawmakers said GM’s warnings about its older cars that have been found to have a dangerous ignition switch flaw have not properly warned drives about the dangers they could be facing when they drive one of the company’s recalled autos.
“We write to urge you to advise owners of all GM vehicles due to faulty ignition switches to cease driving them until they are repaired and to further call on GM to issue similar strongly warnings. A failure to do so could result in additional accidents, injuries and deaths,” the senators wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The recall that was issued by GM in February covered 1.6 million of its older models that were made between 2004 and 2010. The recall warned drivers that they should remove heavy objects like key chains and door remotes because the vehicles’ ignition switches were found to abruptly shut off if they drivers’ keys were too heavy.
GM has been accused of purposely delaying for as long as a decade in some cases to avoid paying for repairs.
Oddly, The Hill never mentions the questions over NHTSA’s curious lack of curiosity over the defect. At the same time this defect and the associated deaths came to light, the NHTSA demanded a massive recall from GM’s main competitor, Toyota, over defects related to uncontrolled acceleration. The rate of failure was actually higher in GM’s cars than Toyotas, and yet NHTSA pushed off action — until Treasury sold off its stake in GM.
Suddenly, Democrats want the NHTSA to get tough on GM. A “park it now” order would also get tough on GM owners, who will have to wait a considerable time for the recall repairs to get finished:
It’s true that this defect can make cars dangerous on the roads, both for their drivers and for others on the road when they fail. That may well justify the expense of the “park it now” order, and we shouldn’t dismiss this request from Markey and Blumenthal out of hand. However, we should ask both when they plan to demand the same level of accountability from NHTSA that they want from GM, and answers on whether their delay was related to keeping GM stock prices high enough to allow Treasury to dump them before the defect got NHTSA attention. That would be insider trading at the least if it happened in the private sector, and you can bet that Blumenthal and Markey would be demanding an investigation of it under those circumstances.