Federal Regulators Botch Oversight of GM's Killer Cobalts, Demand More Money


The House Energy and Commerce Committee issued the findings of its months-long investigation of NHTSA's (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration) handling of GM's ignition switch debacle and they are damning!

It turns out the agency missed the true cause of why GM's 2005 Cobalt and its sister cars were sometimes suddenly stopping and crashing because it did not understand the workings of the advanced airbag systems that it had itself mandated.

NHTSA is supposed to be command central for the auto industry. It constantly monitors information about vehicles

Cobalt Crash

on the road from multiple sources, launches investigations when it detects a trend involving particular models, and orders remedies.

Because NHTSA is motivated neither by bottom-line considerations nor hampered by informational gaps, the theory goes, it can monitor automakers better than they can themselves, I note in my column in The Week this morning. But the reality is that NHTSA is way in over its head and the Congressional investigation illustrates that perfectly. "NHTSA's safety defect investigators' understanding of the systems failed to keep pace with the evolution of the technology," the report said. Hence the agency for years misinterpreted the data at its disposal. Meanwhile, according to GM's own admission 19 people were killed in 30-plus crashes.

Yet, instead, of dropping on the ground and genuflecting for its manifest ineptitude in protecting the drivers in whose name it exists, its chief went before Congress this week and demanded more money for more staff.

Go here to read the whole thing.