What Does Ralph Nader Have To Do With The Automotive Industry? Plenty!

Activist Ralph Nader doesn’t even own a car, but this former presidential candidate, environmentalist and consumer advocate has had a lot to say about the automotive industry for over forty years. There are also plenty of ears that have been willing to listen.

Ever since he published his 1965 book titled “Unsafe at Any Speed,” which criticized the automotive industry’s lack of interest in safety, specifically GM’s Corvair, he has become famous for his stance on automobile safety issues. His book was a result of his own research on the subject, but what really caught the public’s attention was the controversy behind it.

He has been a guest speaker at the Automotive News World Congress, where he reportedly “blasted the U.S. automakers for being short-sighted, encumbered by bureaucracy and failing to innovate to keep up with foreign competitors,” according to Detroit Free Press.

His appearance at the World Congress recognized his crucial role in the development of safety technology, laws and regulations. He has founded numerous consumer advocacy groups and has been very influential both in and out of government. He has lobbied for vehicle safety laws since the sixties and his efforts lead to what is now known as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

On that occasion, GM reacted badly to the criticism. There were spies involved and it all ended up with Nader suing for invasion of privacy, GM’s president apologizing for the incident and a handsome out-of-court settlement that Nader used to fund more activist efforts and groups.

Many years later in 2006, Nader joined forces with the Center for Auto Safety to denounce GM’s OnStar, which, according to the auto industry activists, “dishonestly portrays hands-free calling as a safe activity to engage in while operating a motor vehicle.”

In December of 2009, he appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Domestic Policy and testified, in part, “The societal costs of injury, death and destruction related to motor vehicle crashes remain immense — and they are, to a disturbing degree, preventable. For decades, an industry-beholden National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has failed to realize its statutory mandate to advance safety.

A positive action taken by the US Government towards safety concerns is legislation requiring automakers to include electronic stability control (EVS) that could make rollover accidents a thing of the past. The final date for compliance according to the established guidelines is September 1, 2012.

So what does Ralph Nader have to do with the auto industry? Plenty!

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