Toyota Corolla is one auto being investigated by NHTSA over steering complaints

Through much of the recent deluge of recall announcements and ensuing media coverage, there have been large groups on either side of the issue, quick to criticize or to defend the automakers and the governing bodies involved in the investigations. While many media outlets have merely reported the news, others have weighed in to give their opinion on what's going on. The latest to take a side on the issue is Edmunds.com. The well-known consumer information site issued a press release calling out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), questioning what they see as Inconsistencies in the NHTSA's handling of Chevrolet Cobalt and Toyota Corolla steering complaints.

After reviewing the cases of these two cars and other complaints dating all the way back to 1990, Edmunds found "no clear pattern in terms of the number of consumer complaints that trigger an agency investigation." Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Michelle Krebs found that "as few as five complaints have triggered an investigation [while] other investigations haven't started until 1,500 complaints had accumulated."

In the case of the Chevy Cobalt there were 1,157 complaints about steering issues before the recall investigation was started, while the Toyota Corolla had registered just 84 complaints before that investigation was announced. Even more telling was the fact that NHTSA took an average of 262 days to conclude an investigation before launching a recall, but the range was curiously wide – from just 10 days to a full six years, according to the Edmunds.com report.

"Whether NHTSA's process works properly and quickly enough and whether it is transparent enough is highly questionable. Ultimately, this week's Congressional hearings may well reveal as many defects in NHTSA procedures as defects in Toyota vehicles," said Krebs. The hearings will likely be a chance to play to the cameras for everyone involved, but hopefully some real change can come out of it if the system is indeed shown to be flawed. The full statement from Edmunds.com is after the jump.



[Source: Edmunds, Inc.]
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Edmunds.com Questions NHTSA Inconsistencies, Compares Chevy Cobalt and Toyota Corolla Steering Complaints

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - February 22, 2010 - Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for automotive consumer information, has obtained and reviewed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) complaint and defect investigation database and determined that there are seemingly unexplainable inconsistencies in the vehicle recall process.

"Edmunds.com's analysis of NHTSA data shows no clear pattern in terms of the number of consumer complaints that trigger an agency investigation. As few as five complaints have triggered an investigation; other investigations haven't started until 1,500 complaints had accumulated," noted Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Michelle Krebs in her report NHTSA on the Hot Seat: What is Standard Operating Procedure? on AutoObserver.com.

The report points out that between 2005 and 2010, steering problems on Chevrolet Cobalt were the subject of 1,157 complaints while Toyota Corolla steering problems were the subject of 84 complaints. According to Edmunds.com's reading of the steering complaints on both vehicles, the complaints about the Cobalt's steering are far more serious and more dangerous than are the complaints about the Corolla's steering. NHTSA recently opened official investigations of both vehicles.

Edmunds.com's analysis of NHTSA defects investigation data - from 1990 to the present - shows that once an investigation is launched, it takes an average of 262 days to conclude and result in a recall. However, the range has varied from an investigation that lasted a mere 10 days to another that languished for six years.

"Many of the complaints are actively discussed on Edmunds' CarSpace.com, the auto industry's most established online community, so neither the automaker nor NHTSA can claim ignorance of the issues that potentially make our roads less safe," commented Sylvia Marino, Executive Director of Community for Edmunds.com.

"Whether NHTSA's process works properly and quickly enough and whether it is transparent enough is highly questionable. Ultimately, this week's Congressional hearings may well reveal as many defects in NHTSA procedures as defects in Toyota vehicles," stated Krebs.

About Edmunds.com, Inc. (http://www.edmunds.com/help/about/index.html)
Edmunds.com Inc. publishes four Web sites that empower, engage and educate automotive consumers, enthusiasts and insiders. Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for automotive consumer information, launched in 1995 as the first automotive information Web site. InsideLine.com is the most-read automotive enthusiast Web site. CarSpace is an automotive social networking Web site. AutoObserver.com provides insightful automotive industry commentary and analysis. Edmunds.com Inc. is headquartered in Santa Monica, California, and maintains a satellite office in suburban Detroit. Follow Edmunds.com on Twitter @edmunds and fan Edmunds.com on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/edmunds.