He's back and with a vengeance.

Consumer advocate and former presidential contender Ralph Nader is refocusing on the automotive industry, a move that brought him critical acclaim back in the Sixties. According to the Boston Herald, Nader accuses the U.S. government of acting as a "consulting firm" to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), insurance agencies of failing to promote greater safety and government agencies of continuing to use substandard vehicles. (See here for the Autoblog post and link to the report.) And he wants to establish an office in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., to monitor the automakers.

The NHTSA has already fired back, pointing to all-time low fatality rates and the high rate of seatbelt use by vehicle occupants. Automakers are also defending themselves, noting that side air bags can be found in about seventy-five percent of today's vehicles and are set to be standard by 2009. According to automakers it's the public, not the government, who is demanding these features. We think what they're trying to say Ralph is, "See? The free-market economy does work on its own sometimes."

[Source: Associated Press via the Boston Herald]