The new your vehicle’s dashboard is an entertainment smorgasbord and texting while driving trend is coming under scrutiny from the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration that is beginning three days of hearings. The NHTSA is working on finalizing “voluntary” guidelines, will automakers pay attention?
In February, Ford announced an F150 recall pertaining to spontaneously exploding airbags. This recall was significant because:
- NHTSA instructed Ford to recall approximately 1.5 million trucks for this problem
- Ford decided to ignore the government and recall just 150k trucks instead
- Now, two months later, Ford has finally followed NHTSA instructions and recalled 1.5 million F150s
Of course, I cried foul when Ford ignored the government recall recommendation. How could Ford blatantly disregard NHTSA safety instructions? What’s more, how could Ford ignore a government safety mandate without risking a media firestorm and a massive NHTSA fine?
Yet Ford Motor Company somehow managed to ignore a NHTSA two months ago – and then flip-flop – without any sort of outcry. Be it political influence or just plain ignorance, something stinks at NHTSA.
Last updated 3-17-2011
NHTSA has released their crash test ratings for many of the 2011 half-tons on the market – here’s a summary of the ratings.
So far, it looks like the 2011 Tundra is the safest half-ton on the market, with only the narrowest lead over the GM trucks as a result of the Tundra’s superior IIHS test results. The F150 and Ram come in to third and fourth place respectively (the Nissan Titan has not been rated by NHTSA, so it’s not included in our comparison).
Today, NHTSA announced that Toyota’s electronic throttles aren’t responsible for any instance of unintended acceleration – at least not any instance that NHTSA could study. According to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
“The jury is back. The verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas. Period…Our conclusion — that Toyota’s problems were mechanical, not electrical — comes after one of the most exhaustive, thorough and intensive research efforts ever undertaken.” [From Detroit News]
Let me say that one more time: after one of the most exhaustive, thorough, and intensive research efforts ever undertaken, NHTSA couldn’t find one flipping thing wrong with Toyota’s electronic systems.
This news comes as no surprise – in July 2010, early results from the NHTSA investigation were leaked to the New York Times. These early results showed that, in the vast majority of cases, unintended acceleration was caused by “pedal misapplication” (that’s safety-nerd-speak for “foot on the wrong pedal.”
NHTSA’s team of investigators, working with experts from NASA, couldn’t find one single shred of evidence to support accusations of electronic throttle problems.
It turns out that the early analysis offered – over-sized floor mats, improperly placed floor mats, the rare “sticking pedal”, and driver confusion – were indeed the cause of all of these complaints. The questions are, now that this crisis is over:
- What will Toyota do to put this information in front of the public?
- How many people who argued that Toyota was at fault – or at the very least got caught up in all this mindless hysteria – will admit they were wrong?
- How many people will ignore this information because it suits their financial purpose?
Sean Kane, a supposed “auto safety” consultant, continues to say that Toyota’s electronics are at fault (link). This is the same Sean Kane who gets his checks from product liability lawyers suing Toyota for billions…but why is anyone listening to him now that he’s clearly been proven wrong?
Lately, it seems as if NHTSA is on a regulatory binge. In addition to proposing mandatory back-up cameras, NHTSA has recently announced a new rule that is intended to prevent “ejections” during a rollover. While this new rule could save nearly 400 lives each year, some critics argue that rollover ejections are limited to un-belted passengers, and that the new mandate amounts to “idiot-proofing.”
These critics may be surprised to learn that, in many cases, someone using their seatbelt can be ejected during a rollover…but there’s more to the story than that.