The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t always reveal a problem with a vehicle make and model until after it reviews complaints and meets with automakers about the vehicle defects. The American public only becomes aware of the defect investigations announced by the NHTSA.
Reviews of consumer complaints are kept secret from the public, which could be dangerous to consumers who are not aware that their car or truck’s operation is under review by the NHTSA for a potentially serious defect. Take, for example, the high number of fatal accidents involving the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer. Those accidents involved older model Ford Explorers and were believed to have a part in at least 325 fatalities. The NHTSA did not immediately initiate an official investigation but reviewed the problem Ford in confidential meetings. Later the NHTSA called off the investigation citing a declining number of complaints. At the point the investigation was launched, however, the general public was not aware of it.
Potential new vehicle buyers should have access to all safety information about an automobile before they make the decision to buy. Under the current system, there is potential further harm to the consumer. Before you buy a new vehicle or a new-used vehicle, monitor consumer discussion boards on the Internet and check publications like Consumer Reports.