NHTSA’s Friedman Apologizes for Takata Snafu

Deputy chief acknowledges errors in Monday warning.

by on Oct.23, 2014

David Friedman, NHTSA's deputy administrator, apologized for underreporting the number of vehicles equipped with faulty Takata airbags by 3.1 million cars.

The nation’s top automotive safety official issued an apology late yesterday regarding the issuance of incorrect information about the number of vehicles equipped with faulty Takata airbags.

David Friedman, deputy administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, offered up the apology in a statement after the agency shorted the total number of vehicles with the airbags by 3.1 million vehicles.

The Automotive Journal of Record!

NHTSA also forgot to include two automakers – Ford and Subaru – in the tally, used incorrect figures for others, including counting vehicles from General Motors that didn’t actually use the airbags.

On top of those problems, the website designed to allow vehicle owners to check if their vehicle is being recalled crashed and was down for several hours after the warning went out on Monday.

“We greatly regret that the information provided in our initial safety advisory was inaccurate and that we have experienced significant problems with our website,” Friedman said in the statement.

“We have developed an effective workaround to the website problem that gets people the safety information they need now while we work to fix our system. Protecting the American public is our top priority and we will leave no stone unturned in this investigation.”

The cars have been recalled in 2013 and 2014 due to several instances where the airbags exploded causing four deaths and several injuries. The vehicles involved in the recall date back to the 2000 model year.

(NHTSA increases Takata airbag warning to cover 7.8 million vehicles. For more, Click Here.)

Friedman added the agency is engaged in an investigation and has “identified the problem” with Takata’s airbags. He noted the agency ensuring the cars are recalled in parts of the country “where there is a demonstrated risk.” The agency has recently focused its Takata efforts on high-humidity regions, including U.S. states along the Gulf of Mexico.

That restricted geographic-based effort has drawn the ire of watchdog groups and politicians alike. Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center of Auto Safety, has been criticizing the move since July.

(Click Here for the initial report about the Takata recall.)

Additionally, the New York Times reported that Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey plan to send a letter today chiding NHTSA for how it is handling of the recalls, particularly the regional approach, which was suggested by the automakers.

NHTSA officials confirmed they received the letter today and, “will respond directly to the Senator’s regarding their concerns. Public safety is NHTSA’s top priority and the agency is working to establish a new normal for automakers.” That’s why NHTSA launched an aggressive investigation into Takata airbags and urged all of the affected automakers to immediately conduct recalls in areas with the highest known risk despite the uncertainties in this case.”

(To see what allowed GM to beat earnings expectations, Click Here.)

In addition to the anticipated scolding from the Senators, federal prosecutors are also investigating Takata, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Many have wondered if the lack of a permanent administrator to lead the agency, Friedman is the deputy administrator joining NHTSA last year, has compromised the agency’s effectiveness. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said recently that naming a full-time administrator should occur shortly. Neither he nor Friedman would say if Friedman is the choice to take reins permanently.

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6 Responses to “NHTSA’s Friedman Apologizes for Takata Snafu”

  1. Jorge says:

    It’s amazing with the increase funding that NHTSA has received via the NHTSA tax on every new car, they sure are an embarrassment for a government agency…

  2. veh says:

    Boy have they EVER experienced problems with their website, right when it’s needed most

    >in best Rick Perry voice< "Oops"

  3. We all know NHTSA botched the GM Ign switch
    investigation now this error . what’s next or what is out there they screwed up that we don’t know about .

    Perhaps yet another incompetent USG bureaucracy and top administrators and political appointees at both DOT and NHTSA with no accountability?

  4. Jorge says:

    AFAIK NHTSA has never forced BMW to recall and properly repair the entire line of X35i models that suffer from high fuel pressure pump failures. Some customers have had over (4) HPFPs replaced and these cars still shut off without warning even at highway speeds when the HPFP fails.

    Accidents have been reported and NHTSA has the HPFP failures listed on their website as a safety defect yet no recall. All BMW did was agree to extend the warranty. An extended warranty has not stopped the HPFP failures and there is 5+ years production of X35i models in circulation on U.S. highways without a proper resolution to this safety defect.

    Other countries have reported the same HPFP failures on the X35i models including Japan, Germany, Australia and numerous others. This is not a minor safety issue IMO yet NHTSA has not forced BMW to properly repair these vehicles. How many people are buying these cars and do not even know about this safety defect?

    It appears that NHTSA gives certain car makers a free pass on safety issues…

  5. veh says:

    I don’t see this being a government issue, it’s more a bureaucracy/large organization problem IMO.

    Honda, GM, Toyota, all guilty of CYA and siloing.

    Maybe organizations simply cannot function after they are a certain size, which makes me question the idea that making bigger companies out of smaller companies is always more “efficient”.

    • Jorge says:

      How can you say this is not a governmental agency issue when they can’t even properly report the data? Seriously? If the auto makers changed the information after the original announcement that would explain the situation but that is not what happened. NHTSA simply didn’t take their shoes off to count all of the vehicles impacted but they counted some vehicles twice…

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