June 2, 2016
Because National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the media have not only covered, but unwittingly exaggerated the effects of negligence in the automotive market. Everyday drivers have become increasingly aware of the lingering dangers of driving. Before I continue, some explanation is necessary. In years past, the NHTSA had become famous for accepting donations from American automakers in the automotive market to avoid a recall. An estimated 6.3 million trucks manufactured by GM had a side saddle mounted gas tank that made them 2.5 to 2.8 times more dangerous in a crash than a competitors’ model. After years of stringent investigations that yielded proof GM knew better. The NHTSA, instead of forcing a recall, allowed GM to pay $51.3 Million to “auto safety programs” independent of the government body. However, underreported is the fact that at the time NHTSA (and all consumer protection agencies) were experiencing continual crippling cuts to their budget. For that reason, they were forced into turning to unconventional means to stay financially afloat. The result of the aforementioned practices, was that people felt safer, because they were simply unaware of the product deficiencies that plagued the population. The record setting Takata Corporation seatbelt recall; which would have been impossible to keep quiet; gave the NHTSA a chance to flex their administrative muscles, after the media panned them for prior decisions. It was this massive recall, that taught the NHTSA that they could as garner as much (though probably more) capital if they actually expose wrong doers. Logically speaking, prosecuting gives the government agency more leverage, which yields larger rewards for their diligent work. While the 1995 Takata seat belt recall opened their eyes to that fact, they really did not capitalize to their full potential until a series of record breaking recalls. Coincidentally, the mid 2010s NHTSA surge started just as the one in 1995 did; GM was exposed for criminally negligent engineering (in 2014). Fortunately (for them (and the American automotive industry)), less than a year later, another more viscerally spectacular and dishearteningly expansive recall entered our stream of consciousness, thereby distracting from the American automotive giant. GM paid a huge (though relatively tiny) fine for their wrongdoing, while Takata Corporation continues to be crucified to the full extent of the law. However, this time the government agency did not stop there, beyond non-stop coverage, the these recalls further emboldened the NHTSA. After the properly frightening General Motors (GM) and Takata recalls; the mass sum of media outlets continued to exploit the rating boost such a provocative scandal awarded them. Accordingly, both the media and the NHTSA dove head first into the heads of consumers. But, that was only an appetizer; the eye-opener came with the Volkswagen diesel scandal that was exposed in the Fall of 2015. While this issue was not as pervasive or visceral as the other two, but it was more scandalous, because Volkswagen Auto Group was growing at an unimaginable rate, precisely because enjoyed a similarly unbelievable level of trust from consumers. After such a series of events; lead in part, by the NHTSA; consumers (understandably) lost trust in large portions of the automotive market. However, that is only because they have a false sense of perspective on the manner. The problem is that even major automakers are excessively burdened by (absolutely necessary) regulations from the NHTSA and EPA simultaneously. As a result, automakers are cutting corners. Not long ago, their actions would have never even raised an eyebrow, the difference is, now people are aware. In reality, more recalls are being exposed, but it is not an indicator that cars are less safe. On the contrary; cars are safer (better) than they have ever been. However, because of the drastic increase in NHTSA regulation, even seasoned automakers are struggling to comply, but that will only be temporary.