Government Shutdown Raises Concerns Over Auto Safety

The partial government shutdown has resulted in more than half of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 600 employees being furloughed.  As a result, the agency put a stop to its field crash investigations, customer complaint reviews and defect investigations, and put a halt to its new vehicle recall notifications.

A notice on the NHTSA website reads, “Due to a lapse of Federal Government funding, NHTSA is unable to post any new recalls after the close business Sept. 30, 2013. Consumers can continue to file safety defect complaints via this website, but they will not be evaluated by NHTSA staff until funding and services are restored.”

Ford Motor Company economist Jenny Lin says the shutdown has not effected new vehicle sales thus far, but says it’s “too early to tell” what the future effects might be if the shutdown drags on for an extended period.

Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Group LLC both saw increases in their September sales, while General Motors Company’s sales were down for the month.  Ford credited brisk sales of its F-Series pickup trucks and Fusion and Fiesta models for the 5.8 percent increase in monthly sales.

Last week Hyundai announced that its Hyundai Assurance program, which provides relief to customers who have lost their jobs, will be extended to federal employees who have been affected by the shutdown. The program will allow workers to suspend payments to Hyundai Capital of America until they are recalled.  Federal employees who have been furloughed can still purchase a new Hyundai vehicle and make no payments until December.

In a statement, Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik said, “We recognize the impact on family budgets the furlough will drive.  Like we did almost four years ago when we launched Hyundai Assurance, this is our way of saying, ‘We’ve got your back’ during this uncertain time.”

Industry-wide auto sales fell in September in part because the Labor Day weekend, which typically accounts for a large number of sales, fell in August this year.

The shutdown has caused a lawsuit filed by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Consumers Union, and the parents of two young children killed in separate back-over accidents to be put on hold.

The suit seeks to require automakers to make back up cameras standard on all new vehicles within 90 days.

According to, an estimated 80 percent of all new vehicles currently offer rear-view cameras as standard or optional equipment. Mandating that automakers make the devices standard on all new vehicles sold would cost the auto industry an estimated $2 billion to $3 billion annually.

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