Inadequate Data and Analysis Undermine NHTSA’s Efforts To Identify and Investigate Vehicle Safety Concerns

Since February 2014, the General Motors Corporation (GM) has recalled 8.7 million vehicles in the United States due to an ignition switch that can unexpectedly move from the “run” or “on” position to the “accessory” or “off” position, shutting down the engine and disabling power steering, power brakes, and air bags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Office of Defects Investigation (ODI)—which is responsible for identifying and investigating potential vehicle safety issues and requiring recalls when warranted—looked at GM air bag non-deployments as a potential safety issue starting in 2007. However, it ultimately decided not to investigate the problem and never identified the ignition switch defect as the root cause. The Secretary of Transportation requested that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) assess NHTSA’s procedures for collecting, analyzing, and managing vehicle safety data and determine whether information on ignition switch issues or non-deploying air bags was available to NHTSA but not used in the GM defect analysis. This work examines information available to NHTSA prior to GM’s 2014 recall announcement and does not assess whether GM fully disclosed information on the ignition switch issue to NHTSA. Specifically, OIG assessed ODI’s procedures for (1) collecting vehicle safety data, (2) analyzing the data and identifying potential safety issues, and (3) determining which issues warrant further investigation. OIG also assessed how those procedures affected ODI’s handling of issues related to the GM ignition switch recalls.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Audit Report
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Tables;
  • Pagination: 42p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01570345
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: ST-2015-063
  • Files: TRIS, ATRI, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jul 14 2015 9:11AM