U.S. NHTSA faces review over safety lapses

Pedestrians cross the street as cars wait at an intersection in Boston

by Steve Holland

The Transportation Department will conduct an internal review of U.S. auto safety regulators in response to a series of safety lapses, including this week’s reports of defective airbags, a senior administration official said on Saturday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the review of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration would look at what has occurred and what can be done better to ensure safety.

The safety regulatory agency has faced criticism and congressional scrutiny with millions of vehicles facing recalls over faulty airbags or ignition switches.

The House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee is to hold an initial briefing with U.S. safety regulators next week to learn the details of the regional recalls affecting 10 automakers, a committee aide said on Friday.

The news of the review emerged days after Toyota Motor Corp recalled 247,000 vehicles in the United States because of potentially defective Takata air bags that can rupture and spray metal shrapnel at occupants.

NHTSA has urged owners of certain Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors vehicles to replace installed air bags as soon as possible. The safety agency said the number of vehicles affected by the recalls is 7.8 million.