The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has become a born-again regulator. In the last 12 months, the agency has scored three impressive victories over the car industry. The victories, which have energized NHTSA into regulatory activism, include:
- Takata – The number two airbag manufacturer finally admitted, following significant agency enforcement actions, that its airbags were flawed. The admission resulted in the biggest safety recall in history, nearly 34 million cars.
- General Motors – The U.S. automaker, slammed for its poor handling of the Cobalt ignition switch recall, pulled back more than 30 million vehicles for that and related recalls.
- Fiat Chrysler Automotive – The U.S. automaker was rapped for the foot-dragging pace of 23 major recalls, including the recall of more than 1.56 million Jeeps for fuel tank issue. It resulted in a record $105 million fine and other penalties.
The actions help to overturn a once-cozy relationship between the regulator and the car industry so that now carmakers are no longer lax about issuing recalls. It seems that almost as soon as a potential problem is discovered, the automaker issues a recall.
Toyota is among those carmakers that have felt pressure from federal safety officials in the last several years. The automaker, last year, paid a record $105 million penalty for its poor handling of acceleration recalls. In addition, millions of Toyota cars and trucks have been recalled.
Apparently hoping to get out front with recalls that affect it, Toyota yesterday announced the recall of 423,500 2009 to 2012 RAV4 crossovers, including 421,000 gas-engined models and 2,500 electric models, for windshield wiper problems. Water can drop onto the windshield wiper link, causing corrosion and wear. The wear occurs as the device’s joint. It may cause the wiper arm to separate from the motor crank arm.
If this failure occurs, Automotive News said yesterday, driver visibility will be reduced, increasing the chances of a crash. RAV4 owners impacted by this recall will be notified by mail.