What The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Doesn’t Want You To Know.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed keeping some vehicle defect information confidential, saying that if released, the information “will cause substantial competitive harm.”

The NHTSA wants to withhold production numbers not involving light vehicles, consumer complaints, paid warranty claims, and field reports from the public eye.

Automakers must submit this information to the NHTSA as part of the “early warning” provision of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act. The act was passed by congress in 2000 in response to the Firestone tire fiasco, which is estimated to have caused over 250 fatalities.

The idea behind the legislation was to prevent automakers from hiding known defects in their vehicles, and to give advance warning of potential defects. But so far, the NHTSA has dragged their feet on releasing its data. In 2002, the NHTSA issued a ruling making the data confidential. The consumer advocacy group, Public Citizen, founded by Ralph Nader, fought the ruling in court. In March of 2006, the ruling was overturned, on the basis that the NHTSA did not allow enough time for public comments. However, the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association, which represents tire manufacturers, is fighting the rejection in court.

The data in question has yet to be made public.

Between the legal battles between Public Citizen and the tire industry, and pressure from automakers, you can safely assume it will be a long time before this information is made publicly available, if ever. In the meantime, you don’t have much choice other than to trust the NHTSA to act on this data accordingly.

To obtain the information the NHTSA has released concerning automotive defects, please visit their website.

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