18 automakers agree on new safety pact with regulators

Automakers set an all-time record in 2015, selling more cars than any other year in US history. They also set an annual record of a more dubious kind. Carmakers recalled more cars than ever.

In an effort to stem the tide of safety crises plaguing the industry, 18 automakers reached a voluntary agreement with federal regulators Friday morning on a set of principles designed to improve motor-vehicle safety and eliminate road fatalities.

«I don’t need to recount the crisis after crisis we’ve been dealing,» said Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, pictured, who announced the sweeping agreement in Detroit. «We know they haven’t been good for the industry, for the DOT and most importantly, for public safety. Today we’re taking a strong stand in favor of a new approach.»

Every major automaker that operates in the United States signed the agreement, including Tesla Motors.

Flanked by General Motors CEO Mary Barra, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne, and other top executives, Foxx outlined a set of principles that are supposed to enhance the reporting and examination of early-warning reporting data and improve overall recall participation rates, which have flagged, despite the dangers presented by defects like the exploding airbags manufactured by Takata.

Every major automaker that operates in the United States signed the agreement, including Tesla Motors. The agreement may head off more stringent regulations on the industry at a time when recalls and enforcement actions have hit an all time high.

Automakers agreed to improve the cyber security of vehicles by developing best practices and supporting the industry’s fledgling Information and Sharing Analysis Center, which launched last month. They also agreed to expand membership in that group to their suppliers, who were not represented in Friday’s agreement. In his announcement, Foxx said the auto industry will seek to borrow ideas from the aviation industry on how to improve its safety standards and share information.

Industry representatives began meeting with DOT officials on December 1, and established the list of safety principles over the past six weeks. Initial reports indicated that 16 automakers had signed onto the pact, and it’s unclear how the number fluctuated and evolved prior to Friday’s announcement.

«Perhaps years from now, we’ll look back at this moment as a time when there may have been some skepticism about the safety of the auto industry in general, and the industry stepped up and made a hard pivot with us toward a more proactive safety culture,» said Foxx (pictured above).

While the number of motor-vehicle deaths has fallen over the past decade, 32,675 Americans lost their lives in traffic accidents in 2014, the latest year for which data is available, and federal officials and safety advocates have projected that number is expected to rise by roughly 8.1 percent this year.

The announcement capped a busy week for Foxx in Detroit. In addition to holding meetings with automakers, he announced Thursday that President Obama had proposed nearly $4 billion in funding to accelerate the development of connected and autonomous cars.


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