The top government official overseeing auto and tire safety sees a silver lining in the Firestone recall. Her call is right, but her statement isn't complete.
Sue Bailey, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cites several benefits resulting from the recall. She points out passage of the TREAD Act gives NHTSA the ability to find documentation of claims and obtain information on foreign recalls of products used in America. The act also requires the creation of vehicle rollover ratings and dashboard sensors for tire pressure and directs NHTSA to rewrite the 32-year-old passenger tire safety standard. All good, solid ideas.
Bailey also points out the value of the media attention given the recall, which caused the public to recognize the need to check tire pressure and demand safe, well-made tires.
What she didn't discuss is that NHTSA finally has awakened after being asleep at the switch for decades, unable more than unwilling to monitor tire quality. An effective government agency should have spotted accident trends, and not waited for plaintiffs' attorneys and the media to make an issue of it. This is what you get when you have a NHTSA weakened by years of deregulation and disinterest.
The tire industry mostly has opposed NHTSA initiatives since the agency's creation. That contributed to a disaster for one tire maker and a negative public image for the entire business. If a more cooperative relationship develops between the two sides, that would be a positive result of the recall crisis.