After close to a year without a permanent leader, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could get a new chief within the next two weeks.
The Obama administration is close to appointing the new head of U.S. auto safety, a decision that will have to be approved by the Senate, the Wall Street Journal reported. Acting Administrator David J. Friedman has been leading the agency since David Strickland resigned in January.
In related news, a House committee charged with examining the Takata air bag debacle will meet with NHTSA officials next week to discuss regional recalls affecting 10 automakers that used the supplier. Takata reportedly did not store materials for the air bags properly, resulting in defective air bag inflators that can cause the part to explode and spray shrapnel at the vehicle's occupants.
"Drivers are being told they need to fix their cars immediately, yet they are directed to a website that isn't working properly and are being told by dealers that they don't have working parts," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan said in a statement quoted by Bloomberg News and other media. "Drivers are rightly confused and panicked."
Some 7.8 million cars have been recalled for faulty air bags, affecting vehicles from Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors.
The House committee will examine the timeline of the recalls and whether or not NHTSA regulators have effectively handled the air bag issues.
"First and foremost we need to ensure that regulators and auto makers are doing everything they can to address this hazard and protect drivers," committee chairman Fred Upton (R., Mich.) said in a statement quoted by the Journal. "We want to fully understand what steps have already been taken and what the next steps are in this process. We can't afford to make mistakes with public safety on the line."
The NHTSA has already been under fire for its handling of the recent GM ignition switch disaster. Nearly 2.6 million small cars were related to fatalities and serious injuries over about a decade before GM recalled the Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion and other models earlier this year.