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NHTSA Says It Didn’t Have Enough Information to Investigate Cobalt

Tina Robinson3 years ago

One of the questions lawmakers asked today as hearing into the General Motors ignition switch recall began was why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration failed to investigate cases of airbag non-deployment in recalled vehicles.

According to testimony given today before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, acting administrator of NHTSA David Friedman said that crash information failed to show a trend between the Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion and vehicles from other manufacturers.

Cobalt and Ion Data Did Not Stand Out

On two separate occasions, NHTSA considered opening an investigation into airbag non-deployment in Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion vehicles. Friedman explained that when the safety agency accounted for all crash data, including things such as a seatbelt use, airbag non-deployment in Cobalts and Ions did not stand out when compared to other vehicles.

Friedman explained that in cases where Early Warning data raises concerns, approximately half of those instances are investigated. The other half, such as happened with the Cobalt, are not.

GM Slow to Provide Data?

Friedman also testified that the NHTSA only recently received information from GM that definitely linked the defective ignition switches to airbag non-deployment. If that information had been made available earlier, Friedman says he is confident that the agency would have acted sooner.  Other critical information that was withheld from NHTSA includes a part redesign without changing the part number that occurred in 2006.

E-mails sent to GM from NHTSA also expressed concern over the automaker’s speed and cooperation in inquiries into product safety. Friedman confirmed that although he was not familiar with the specific e-mail, he had sat in meetings with GM where NHTSA had said as much. 

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