A new audit released by the U.S. Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General rips the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over its handling of the Takata airbag recall.
In the report, the Inspector General says NHTSA's recall monitoring process "does not ensure that remedies are reported completely and in a timely manner," nor does it "verify recall completion rates, although it has the authority to do so." Other issues the audit found included the long time it took the agency to determine the scope of the Takata recall and missing documents due to limited monitoring and inadequate procedures.
"In June 2014, RMD [NHTSA's Recall Management Division] received a recall notification for Takata airbag inflators in over 140,000 vehicles. The notification stated that the manufacturer planned to tell owners to take their vehicles to dealerships for repairs in February 2015. However, as of February 2018, RMD had not received the manufacturer's remedy documents, and [the Office of Defects Investigation's] recall recordkeeping system does not indicate that RMD staff requested those documents," the report said.
The Inspector General makes six recommendations including better training for staff, creating a system to handle missing documents and communications, and documenting various lessons from the Takata recall.
NHTSA in a letter said it "did not endorse all of the report’s findings," but did agree to some of the recommendations.
The agency has come under fire for a number of years due to its poor handling of various auto safety issues, including Toyota's unattended acceleration crisis and GM's ignition switch mess. This latest audit is fourth since 2011 by the inspector general. The last audit done in 2015 said NTHSA failed to investigate safety issues carefully, hold automakers accountable, and adequately train their staff which resulted in “significant safety concerns being overlooked.”