Exclusive: U.S., major automakers to announce safety accord Friday - sources

Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:18pm EST
 
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By David Shepardson

DETROIT (Reuters) - The U.S. government and a group of global automakers are set to unveil a voluntary agreement at the Detroit auto show on Friday aimed at improving auto industry safety and spurring culture changes, according to company and government officials.

The accord could set the framework for further discussions on safety reforms and mark a new era of cooperation between automakers and regulators after a record-setting year of safety fines, recalls and investigations into malfunctioning vehicles made by General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCAU.N: Quote), Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote) and others.

But it stops short of what many safety advocates have urged Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to adopt: new binding legal requirements to toughen safety rules. And automakers may be able to raise the voluntary agreement to argue against future proposed regulations, saying the accord makes legally binding rules unnecessary.

The agreement, under discussion for several weeks, would also attempt to improve vehicle cyber security and the use of early warning data to detect potential defects that might lead to safety problems or large-scale recalls, sources said. It would also create new government-industry task forces to work to improve auto safety.

Despite the voluntary agreement, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said the agency will not hesitate to fine automakers that fail to follow the rules and will not give up its aggressive enforcement of auto safety rules.

Automakers recalled a record-setting 63.95 million vehicles in the United States in 2014, incurring large fines from NHTSA.

Companies in the talks leading up to the agreement include GM, Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote), Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote), Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE: Quote), Fiat Chrysler, BMW AG (BMWG.DE: Quote), Honda, Nissan Motor Co (7201.T: Quote) and Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS: Quote).

The agreement is to be announced at the auto show in the U.S. auto capital of Detroit by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and top auto executives, sources told Reuters.   Continued...

 
The GM logo is seen at the General Motors Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant in Lansing, Michigan October 26, 2015. Photo taken October 26.   REUTERS/Rebecca Cook