Two U.S. congressmen have announced that they are drafting reforms of auto safety laws that may be revealed later this week. This action follows Toyota Motor Corp.’s multiple vehicle recalls and payment of $16.4 million fine to the federal government for allegedly delaying the recall of vehicles over sticky accelerator pedals by at least four months.
The draft auto safety legislation is expected to require all automakers to install brake override systems, event data recorders and other technology to prevent vehicle runaways. The bill is co-authored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman.
The bill also is expected to increase fines for delaying auto safety recalls from the $16.4 million maximum.
The chairmen may also request more staff to be added to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as authority to announce faster recalls, according to news reports.
“Shortly, I will introduce legislation that will hold automakers to a higher standard and strengthen the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s ability to more effectively protect Americans on the road,” Rockefeller said.
Waxman said that the agency needs adequate “resources, expertise and authority to protect consumers from vehicle safety defects.”
Toyota also said today that it has told the NHTSA that it will conduct a voluntary recall 50,000 of its 2003 Sequoia SUVs after consumers complained that the SUV stability control did not engage fast enough. A technical service bulletin was previously issued for this model for complaints dating back to 2008. The agency has been investigating the defect for two years.
About half of the owners of the 50,000 vehicles responded to the technical service bulletin and those consumers who may have paid for the adjustment when work was performed after their vehicle warranty had expired will be reimbursed, according to the Japanese automaker.
Complaints by Toyota Sequoia owners ranged from the stability control “kicked in at times it shouldn’t have, (and) maybe too early.”