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Car Firms Get More Time to File Data

September 29, 2004|From Reuters

Regulators reluctantly agreed Tuesday to give auto companies more time to report sensitive safety data to the government, ending a drawn-out disagreement with the industry over how long it should take to organize information on potential defects.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now will let vehicle manufacturers, tire makers and other companies file their quarterly early warning reports within 60 days after the end of each three-month period, according to a regulatory filing.

It was the second time the agency had changed the reporting timetable after initially approving a final regulation more than two years ago that required the data submissions 30 days after the end of a quarter beginning in 2004.

Manufacturers have been reporting defect data since last year on the 60-day schedule, but regulators wanted quicker access this year to identify any safety problems sooner.

Although NHTSA prefers a faster reporting schedule, it said the new timetable would not compromise safety because companies would have the extra time to ensure that data were accurate and complete.

But regulators also said they would revisit the issue after two years and could accelerate the reporting deadline.

Companies are required to supply data on fatalities, injuries, damage, warranty claims and consumer complaints as part of NHTSA's early warning network that was put in place after the Firestone tire debacle.

But tire makers said gathering information and completing reports was more complex than first thought. For instance, some information comes from overseas and must be translated.

Still undecided is what safety information from the industry the government will make public. Tire makers sued to keep some of the data confidential, claiming that releasing details on deaths and injuries, warranty claims and consumer complaints could harm competition.

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