As DOT fines Takata, GROW AMERICA tour presses safety for rental car customers
This morning, the GROW AMERICA Express pulled into Virginia’s Richmond International Airport, where we made two big safety announcements. These steps forward on safety highlight the ways that government, consumer advocates, and businesses can work together.
At the airport, I was joined by Mark Rosekind, the Administrator of our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, by safety advocate Rosemary Shahan, and by representatives of the rental car industry to talk about how we can keep vehicles with safety defects off our highways. As Fast Lane readers know, industry and safety advocates don't always agree, but these folks have come together on a common-sense proposition: rental car agencies should not be able to rent a vehicle that is under a safety recall until any safety defects have been repaired.
Under current law, new cars must be fixed before sale. However, no similar provision exists for rental car agencies or used car dealers. According to Carfax, an estimated 3.5 million used vehicles were sold with open safety defect recalls in 2013.
I’m glad to report that major rental car agencies are standing with our Department –and standing up for safety– by making it their policy to fix any vehicles they have that are under recall before renting them out. And this morning, I commended them for that.
But I also said: We need to make sure every rental car agency and every used car dealer follows their lead.
That principle is at the core of our GROW AMERICA safety agenda. Senators Schumer, McCaskill, and Boxer have also introduced legislation in Congress to ensure dealers and agencies fix recalled vehicles before handing over the keys. What we need now is for Congress to step up, and to make renting or selling a recalled vehicle illegal.
It wasn’t a coincidence that we made this announcement in Richmond. In another recall-related safety issue, one of the five U.S. fatalities associated with defective Takata airbags occurred in the Richmond area.
We've pushed hard to get millions of defective Takata air bags off our roads. Those air bags can explode with such force that they have grievously injured people and, in a half-dozen cases, killed them. To remove that threat and get to the root cause of this defect, we need Takata’s cooperation, and so far they have not demonstrated it.
NHTSA has issued two orders compelling Takata to provide the documents and information we need to fix this problem, and the company has failed to abide by those orders.
Safety is a shared responsibility and Takata’s failure to fully cooperate with our investigation is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. That’s why, today, the Department will begin fining Takata $14,000 a day –the maximum $7,000-a-day civil penalty NHTSA can impose for each of those two orders– until Takata cooperates fully.
I know it doesn't sound like a lot of money, but it's the maximum allowable by law.
Now, I’ve spoken a lot this week about how a long-term transportation bill can help us solve some of the challenges facing the nation’s transportation infrastructure. But there's also a wealth of safety proposals in our GROW AMERICA Act. And one of those is an increase in the maximum civil penalties NHTSA can levy against manufacturers that refuse to address defective and dangerous vehicles.
Republicans and Democrats can agree –should agree– that when it comes to investing in our transportation future, those investments must be grounded firmly in safety. That’s what GROW AMERICA achieves.
It's time for Congress to increase auto safety protections. It's time to GROW AMERICA.
DOT is working to make sure consumers are informed about safety defects. On NHTSA's safercar.gov website you can enter your car's Vehicle Identification Number to check for any safety recalls; you can do the same with our Safercar app for iPhone and Android devices.