July 26, 2014 at 11:39 am

NHTSA closes GM, Toyota defect petition reviews

Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Saturday it is rejecting petitions demanding recalls of General Motors and Toyota cars.

The auto safety agency has come under criticism from some in Congress for not acting quickly on petitions seeking recalls. The two petitions closed Saturday were both more than 18 months old.

On Saturday, NHTSA said it was closing a review of a petition filed in January 2013 claiming a braking defect in nearly 24,000 2012 Toyota Prius C cars. NHTSA noted Toyota issued two separates for other vehicles for braking issues but not the Prius C.

NHTSA said a "broader review of the consumer complaints reported for all variants of the subject vehicle showed no indication that either the reported jolting sensation or the brake performance concerns reported are occurring in this vehicle population at a level that would require investigative action by NHTSA."

In NHTSA's view "additional investigation is unlikely to result in a finding that a defect related to motor vehicle safety exists in the subject vehicles. Therefore, given the need to allocate and prioritize NHTSA limited resources to best accomplish the Agency’s safety mission, the petition is denied."

NHTSA is also closing a petition review of 248,000 2007-2009 Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia 248,453 after a complaint of loss of low beam headlamp function due to an overheated bulb connector..

NHTSA said out of a population of 248,453 subject vehicles, NHTSA received 473 consumer complaints of inoperative head lamp — most for only one light. Many of these complaints indicated that the head lamp harness suffered damage from overheating. After reviewing the complaints, NHTSA said it didn't find a defect.

"Over the last 25 years, (NHTSA) has opened numerous defect investigations of the loss of headlamp illumination. Investigations that resulted in safety recalls involved simultaneous loss of illumination from both headlamps. NHTSA does not consider the loss of a single headlamp as presenting an unreasonable safety risk-such failures are readily detectable by the driver while allowing the vehicle to retain forward visibility and conspicuity from the remaining headlamp."

NHTSA said drivers typically have enough time between the failure of the first headlamp and the second during to obtain the needed repairs. "Based on the information currently available, NHTSA does not believe that the headlamp condition as alleged by the petitioner indicates the likelihood of a safety-related defect that would warrant a formal investigation," NHTSA said.

Earlier this month, Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, asked NHTSA to explain how it responds to defect petitions. They asked for "information on how it responds to petitions for defect and recall to ensure that they are responded to in a timely and complete manner."

By law, NHTSA is required to grant or deny petitions within 120 days, "and when they are denied, NHTSA is additionally required to publish the reasons for the denial." The letter sought a list of all petitions and the status. It asked NHTSA why in some cases it has "failed to comply with its statutory requirements."