Spotting trends in the tens of thousands of complaints NHTSA gets each year is a tough job, and this case may have been more complicated than most. The Cobalt had a litany of problems, including fuel leaks and a power steering defect, that the agency did investigate. GM may not have disclosed all the information it had on the switches. And the 2010 recall of millions of Toyotas for unintended acceleration claimed much of the government’s attention.
But several experts say NHTSA should have pressed for a recall sooner.
“They’re not connecting up the dots. That’s the generous explanation,” says Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Auto Safety, who has studied the government’s auto safety agency for decades. “The not-so-generous is that they did connect the dots but they just didn’t do anything.”