US Representative Pallone Wants Automakers to Pay More for Recalls

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U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. D-New Jersey, called on car manufacturers to pay greater fines for defective parts, and to stop "dragging their feet" when it comes to recalling vehicles.

In light of General Motors recalling millions of vehicles in 2014, and Takata recalling almost 34 million this year because of faulty airbags, Pallone held a press conference Tuesday at the Middletown AAA Car Care Center to promote his proposed legislation, the Vehicle Safety Improvement Act of 2015 (VSIA), which was introduced last month.

The legislation, Pallone said, has two primary goals.

"I learned that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) doesn't really have the resources to monitor all this," Pallone said. To give NHTSA more resources to monitor and investigate the recalls more effectively, Pallone said, "vehicle safety user fees" varying from $3 to $9 would be required from the manufacturer for each vehicle that meets required safety standards.

Pallone said Takata "dragged their feet" when it came to recalling vehicles with defective airbags, so a pivotal point of the proposed bill is to eliminate regional recalls and require they be national.
"[Takata] was trying to make the case that the reason why the airbags were defective was because of high humidity, so they wanted to do regional recalls," Pallone said. "It's pretty hot and humid in New Jersey for at least three months of the year. So one of the things said in the bill is you have national recalls and you can't say, 'We're going to do a regional recall or state by state recall,' because to be honest, I can't think of a circumstance where that rationale makes sense."

Takata recalled nearly 34 million airbags last week, saying the air bags can inflate with too much force, sending metal shrapnel into drivers and passengers. So far the problem has caused six deaths, including five in the U.S.

Other key points of the legislation include:

1. That manufacturer's safety information regarding defective parts be communicated on NHTSA's website.
2. To improve the search capabilities of NHTSA's website.
3. Requiring used car dealers to report safety defects before used cars can be sold.
4. Give NHTSA the ability to expedite recalls in the face of imminent hazard.
5. Increased penalties against defective parts manufacturers.

Tracy Noble, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said AAA supported Pallone's legislation.

She said that over Memorial Day weekend, 33 million motorists nationwide traveled 50 miles or more from home, and AAA was expected to rescue more than 8,000 disabled vehicles from roadways in New Jersey over the weekend.

"Accountability, transparency and full and timely disclosure of any potential safety defect is not negotiable when it comes to motorists' safety," Noble said.

"We don't want to have a situation where a family is out on the road and they think they're fine, and they're subject to a safety defect that causes injury or even death," Pallone said.

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