Auto safety chief hits America's hot roads to push recall repairs

Wed Aug 10, 2016 12:53pm EDT
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By David Shepardson

MIAMI (Reuters) - Under a blazing sun in a Florida college parking lot, employees of the U.S. government’s auto safety regulator, Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote) and a tire industry trade group checked vehicles for recall notices, under-inflated tires and improperly installed child safety seats.

Frustrated by the failure of many American motorists to take cars with safety defects to dealers for repairs, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration chief Mark Rosekind on Tuesday began a political campaign-style swing through southern states to push for better vehicle maintenance.

"Shaking hands and kissing babies: our version is checking VINs, tires and car seats," Rosekind said in an interview at the tour's second event in Orlando.

The first-of-its-kind nearly 1,500-mile, nine stop trip over five days in a rented bus wrapped in NHTSA logos and safety messages, will take Rosekind from Miami to Fort Worth, Texas during the hottest time of the year.

Heat and humidity elevate the risk that vehicle airbags equipped with aging inflators made by Takata Corp (7312.T: Quote) could rupture and injure or kill occupants, the agency has found.

Automakers have recalled more than 100 million vehicles in the last two years in the United States. Consumers, however, have no legal obligation to get recalled vehicles fixed, and NHTSA has estimated that 20 to 30 per cent of recalled vehicles are not brought back to dealerships for free repairs.

About half of vehicles checked in Miami on Tuesday and about half of 300 vehicles checked during an event in July in Atlanta showed uncompleted recalls, Rosekind said.

Latin dance music played at an early morning safety check event on the Florida International University campus in Miami, drawing students, university employees and others.   Continued...

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator Mark Rosekind (C) talks to a motorist getting a safety check at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S. August 8, 2016.  REUTERS/David Shepardson