Department of Transportation's Investigation of Rear Brake Lockup Problems in 1980 X-Body Cars Should Have Been More Timely

RCED-83-195: Published: Aug 5, 1983. Publicly Released: Aug 5, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation of alleged rear brake lockup problems in General Motors' 1980 X-body cars.

GAO found that NHTSA did not follow its established procedures for conducting safety defect investigations. Although it had information indicating that General Motors' remedy for the braking defect might not be adequate, NHTSA did not formally advise the firm of this concern, aggressively pursue testing affected cars, or promptly initiate an audit of the recall's effectiveness. Therefore, NHTSA delayed the recall of cars with potential safety defects. Further, GAO found that decisions regarding most of these actions were made by a single NHTSA official with no apparent review by top agency officials. GAO noted that it did not draw any conclusions concerning General Motors' actions in this case.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should instruct the Administrator, NHTSA, to require top-level officials to participate in the defect investigation process; specifically, a representative from the Administrator's or the Deputy Administrator's staff should attend key defect investigation decision meetings, such as the defect review panel meetings when a decision is made to open a formal defects investigation case, close out the investigation, or seek more information on the alleged problem.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should instruct the Administrator, NHTSA, to clarify the defect investigation policies and procedures; specifically, the Administrator should clarify when defect investigation test reports should be entered in the case files and what test information should be provided to a manufacturer and when and by whom. Also, any exception to issuing a press release when opening a formal investigation should be justified and made a part of the public record.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should instruct the Administrator, NHTSA, to clarify the defect investigation policies and procedures; specifically, the Administrator should clarify when defect investigation test reports should be entered in the case files and what test information should be provided to a manufacturer and when and by whom. Also, any exception to issuing a press release when opening a formal investigation should be justified and made a part of the public record.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should instruct the Administrator, NHTSA, to reaffirm the need for compliance with the policies and procedures for conducting defect investigations; specifically, the Administrator should stress that the actions called for by the policies and procedures be performed in a timely manner.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should instruct the Administrator, NHTSA, to reaffirm the need for compliance with the policies and procedures for conducting defect investigations; specifically, the Administrator should stress that the actions called for by the policies and procedures be performed in a timely manner.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should instruct the Administrator, NHTSA, to require top-level officials to participate in the defect investigation process; specifically, a representative from the Administrator's or the Deputy Administrator's staff should attend key defect investigation decision meetings, such as the defect review panel meetings when a decision is made to open a formal defects investigation case, close out the investigation, or seek more information on the alleged problem.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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