The Toyota Debacle and NHTSA's Role: What Congress Must Investigate

Ben Somberg

Feb. 9, 2010

In a letter today, CPR President Rena Steinzor and board member Sidney Shapiro recommend to Congress questions it should investigate to get to the bottom of the Toyota accelerator/recall matter that's all over the news. The letter focuses in particular on the role of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and examines the agency's shortcomings in achieving its mission to protect public safety.

To be clear, the Toyota case is about much more than engineering failure. It is a massive regulatory failure. One challenge confronting Congress is to determine how and why NHTSA failed to contain this problem after reports of safety failures began to surface several years ago. Did NHTSA lack sufficient statutory authority? Are its procedures too cumbersome to allow it to protect consumers in such instances?

The letter was sent to Rep. Edolphus Towns, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Darrell Issa, the committee's ranking member. The committee will be holding a hearing on Toyota and NHTSA (originally scheduled for Wednesday; now postponed due to weather).

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