National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Strickland, 45, is stepping down after heading the agency since January 2010, The Detroit News reports, but his plans after NHTSA haven't been announced. It's expected that he'll leave within the next couple of months, after which David Friedman, NHTSA's deputy director, will head the agency until a new chief is appointed.
Strickland's NHTSA is best known for handling investigations of millions of Toyota vehicles in the midst of the automaker's sudden-acceleration woes and subsequent recalls, and for helping to broker a deal between the Obama administration and automakers to raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
In an increasingly technology-dependent auto industry, the agency under Strickland also has drafted and finalized regulations for distracted driving, electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, along with overseeing investigations into electrified vehicles including the Tesla Model S and Chevrolet Volt. It was under his watch that NHTSA enacted a minimum sound requirement for EVs and required seatbelts on commercial buses and event data recorders ("black boxes") in every new car.
While not everything in the NHTSA's agenda was accomplished with Strickland at the helm – a rear-visibility law finalized in 2007 that continues to be delayed comes to mind – Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer gives some context:
"David Strickland has an impressive list of accomplishments during his time at NHTSA... while several unresolved issues remain on David Strickland's docket, including the Tesla investigation, he would likely never find a moment where all open cases are resolved."