Niagara Gazette

Features

April 18, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Safety recalls -- How a defect becomes a recall

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Petition analysis: During this phase, all petitions for the defect are processed (again, in an effort to determine if there’s a case for recall).

Investigation: A detailed Investigation into the alleged defect/s is launched.

Recall management: In this phase, the NHTSA monitors the adequacy of the safety recall and safety-relatedness of the service bulletins issued.

During the screening process, the NHTSA relies on information it receives from Electronic Vehicle Owners’ Questionnaires, Vehicle Owner Questionnaires, E-mail, verbal consumer complaints, letters, and anonymous reports (most of this information is gathered from you, the motorist!). This information is analyzed by the TAD (Trend and Analysis Division). If the TAD evaluation of the available information indicates a safety-related trend or catastrophic failure is developing, than the appropriate investigative division is notified. There are two investigative divisions, the Vehicle Control Division and the Vehicle Integrity Division. The investigation begins at this point.

Investigations are conducted in two phases:

Preliminary Evaluation (PE): During this phase, the ODI obtains certain limited information from the manufacturer (including, but not limited to, data on complaints, crashes, injuries, warranty claims, modifications, and part sales) and determines whether further analysis is warranted. At this stage, the manufacturer has an opportunity to present its views regarding the alleged defect. PE’s are generally resolved within four months from the date they are opened. They are either closed because further investigation is not warranted, or because the manufacturer has decided to conduct a recall. In the event the ODI believes further analysis is warranted, the PE is upgraded to an EA (Engineering Evaluation).

Engineering Evaluation (EA): During an EA, ODI conducts a more detailed and complete analysis of the character and scope of the alleged defect. The EA builds on information collected during the PE and supplements it with appropriate inspections, tests, surveys, and additional information obtained from the manufacturer and suppliers. ODI attempts to resolve all EA’s within a year from the date they are opened, but some complex investigations require more time. At the conclusion of an EA, the investigation may be closed without further action. However, if ODI believes that the collected data indicates that a safety- related exists, the Associate Administrator for Safety Assurance is briefed. With Associate Administrator concurrence, the ODI investigator prepares a briefing to be presented to a panel of experts from throughout the agency for peer review. The manufacturer is then notified verbally of the panel’s result and given an opportunity to present any new analysis or data.

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