U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, will convene a hearing titled, “Update on NHTSA and Automaker Efforts to Repair Defective Takata Air Bag Inflators,” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. The hearing will examine the steps both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other stakeholders have taken in response to the ongoing Takata air bag inflator recalls.
- Ms. Heidi King, Deputy Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, US Department of Transportation
- Mr. John Buretta, Independent Monitor of Takata, And Coordinated Remedy Program
- Mr. David Kelly, Project Director, Independent Testing Coalition
- Mr. Joe Perkins, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Key Safety Systems
- Mr. Rick Schostek, Executive Vice President, Honda North America
- Ms. Desi Ujkashevic, Global Director, Automotive Safety Office, Ford Motor Company
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
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Chairman Jerry Moran
Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s Consumer Protection Subcommittee hearing on the Takata air bag recalls, the largest and most complex series auto recalls in history. We are here today because of a simple but solemn fact: defective Takata air bags have resulted in the tragic deaths of 15 people, and have injured well over 200 more in the United States alone.
Vehicle safety is a core mission of this Subcommittee, and a great deal has transpired in the Takata recalls process since the Commerce Committee last convened a public hearing on this matter in June of 2015.
In fact, ten years have passed since the initial recall of some Takata air bag inflators. Thankfully, we now understand the underlying cause of the defect. As vehicles age, the threat increases. We have also learned that Takata misled both the government and the vehicle manufacturers. As a result, Takata agreed to a record $200 million civil penalty and a $1 billion criminal penalty. We are just now making progress to respond to these alarming recalls.
Congress, for its part, passed a number of recall reforms included in the FAST Act of 2015 in response to the Takata recalls and others around that time.
These provisions sought to improve consumer awareness by identifying part numbers in safety defect notices, requiring dealers to notify consumers of open recalls during service appointments, and improving NHTSA’s website. They also tripled civil penalties for auto safety violations to a cap of $105 million. I am interested to hear today what impact those reforms have had on the overall Takata recall effort.
To appreciate the challenges involved in this recall process one need only to reference the sheer scope of it: 50 million air bag inflators in 37 million vehicles under recall by 19 manufacturers, numbers that are anticipated to continue to grow in a process that may play out for another 10 to 15 years.
It is imperative that all these recalled vehicles are repaired. Each of our witnesses today is here to provide insight into this process. We will be asking them not only for an update on the recall and remedy efforts for Takata air bag inflators, but also their plans to continue the progress made thus far toward full completion.
I am generally encouraged by what I have heard in recent months regarding the coordination and data-sharing between NHTSA, the automakers and other stakeholders, but clearly the results are mixed and there is much work left to be done.
Specifically, I am eager to learn more about the innovative approaches being used to reach the millions of consumers affected by these recalls. Every consumer is different and we must identify which methods are most effective in reaching each consumer to ensure their safety and that of their families.
I am pleased to welcome Heidi King, the Deputy Administrator at NHTSA and the agency’s highest ranking official, to her first testimony before this Committee. Later on, we will be joined by a second panel of stakeholders who are also intimately involved in this recall effort.
I encourage everyone watching this hearing today to pay attention to recall notices on your vehicle and call the closest dealership for a repair. You can look up whether your vehicle is subject to open recall at www.NHTSA.gov.
Most importantly, I wish to offer my sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones because of defective Takata air bags, including some in the audience today.
Once again, thank you all for being here today. With that I will turn to the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Senator Blumenthal, for his opening remarks.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
In November 2014, this committee held our first hearing on defective Takata air bags.
Fast forward to today – some three and a half years later – and we’re still dealing with the big problem of getting vehicles with these defective and deadly air bags fixed.
To try to get a better read on where things stand right now, I asked all nineteen automakers affected by the Takata recalls to update us on their most recent recall completion rates and steps they’re taking to improve them.
And the responses to my request show that there is still a wide – and concerning – variance in the pace of these recalls. For example, among the five automakers with the highest number of vehicles recalled due to Takata air bags:
Honda has repaired seventy percent of these recalled vehicles nationwide as of early March;
Fiat Chrysler’s completion rate is forty-one percent; and,
Toyota is at approximately sixty-one percent.
Ford, on the other hand, has only fixed about twenty-two percent of vehicles under recall. Ford’s completion rate is so low because NHTSA allowed the automaker to delay repairs on more than one million recalled vehicles.
Lastly, BMW, the automaker with the fifth highest number of recalled Takata air bags, failed to provide their most recent completion rates.
Now, Honda has been at this longer than all the other automakers, which may explain why their numbers are higher. But overall, these recall completion rates are disappointing and remain a cause for real concern.
Mr. Buretta, the independent monitor, put out a lengthy report late last year outlining new ideas and strategies to make these recalls more effective.
Things like mobile service units that can come to consumers on their schedule and fix defective air bags at their homes or businesses.
Or incentivizing dealers to offer extended service hours, so the person who works all day and then has to come home and put the kids to bed can bring the car in and get it repaired without taking time off.
Or even just a better coordinated outreach strategy.
You would think NHTSA would have picked that up and run with it.
Unfortunately, NHTSA still seems to be playing a game of regulatory whack-a-mole and twiddling its thumbs when it comes to actually enforcing the coordinated recall approach and benchmarks for automakers.
All this is happening while drivers in Florida and across the country, who wonder about the safety of their vehicles, are left in limbo.
I hope that we finally hear today about a forceful regulatory approach that will get us to the end of what has been a long and frustrating road for the American driving public.
Finally, I would like to recognize Mr. Alexander Brangman who traveled from San Diego to be at this hearing today.
Mr. Brangman lost his daughter, Jewel, when a Takata air bag exploded in her Honda in September 2014. Mr. Chairman, I request that his statement by entered into the record
I think his presence here today is a stark reminder of the human cost of these defective air bags and a reminder to all of the witnesses here – especially NHTSA – that we need to pick up the pace on these recalls before anyone else loses a loved one.
Ms. Heidi KingDeputy AdministratorNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration, US Department of Transportation
Witness Panel 2
Mr. John BurettaIndependent Monitor of Takata, And Coordinated Remedy Program
Mr. David KellyProject DirectorIndependent Testing Coalition
Mr. Joe PerkinsSenior Vice President and Chief Financial OfficerKey Safety Systems
Mr. Rick SchostekExecutive Vice PresidentHonda North America
Ms. Desi UjkashevicGlobal Director of the Automotive Safety OfficeFord Motor Company