Learn more about our policy experts.

Media Contacts

Angela Bradbery, Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7741
c. (202) 503-6768
abradbery@citizen.org, Twitter

Don Owens, Deputy Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7767

Karilyn Gower, Press Officer
w. (202) 588-7779

David Rosen, Press Officer, Regulatory Affairs
w. (202) 588-7742

Nicholas Florko, Communications Officer, Global Trade Watch
w. (202) 454-5108

Other Important Links

Press Release Database
Citizen Vox blog
Texas Vox blog
Consumer Law and Policy blog
Energy Vox blog
Eyes on Trade blog

Follow us on Twitter


July 28, 2005

Consumer Victory: New Rule Requires Auto Manufacturers to Notify Dealers of the Most Dangerous Defects

Notification of Serious Defects Must Occur Within Three Days of Manufacturer Decision to Conduct Recall

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A July 6th National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rule revising a final rule issued last year requires auto manufacturers to notify dealers within three days after the company tells NHTSA of its plans to conduct a recall when the defect poses an immediate and substantial threat to safety. The July decision altered the final rule issued last year in response to a petition for reconsideration filed by Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety (CAS). The new three-day rule addressing the most perilous defects is a victory for auto safety advocates.

Public Citizen and CAS pointed out in the petition last year that NHTSA’s previous final rule would allow auto manufacturers to notify dealers of defects long after the agency had been told by the manufacturer that a defect exists.   During that period, dealers could continue to sell vehicles containing identified safety defects, both endangering consumers and adding to consumers’ hassle, as they would have to return to the showroom soon after purchase to remedy the defect. The former rule saved manufacturers money by reducing the number of vehicles that would likely be remedied and reduced the pressure on manufacturers from dealers to quickly remedy defects so that vehicles could be sold.

In 1993, NHTSA had proposed that auto manufacturers notify dealers within five days of finding a serious defect. Automakers and dealers both objected, and action on the rule was postponed.    In 1999, NHTSA proposed a notification scheme that required notification of dealers only “within a reasonable time” but did not adopt it in final form until 2004, when auto safety groups objected.   

The 2005 changes to the final rule will prevent dealers from selling vehicles with identified dangerous safety defects – those considered an “immediate and substantial threat” to safety.   Public Citizen is watching to see whether implementation of this rule is fair and does indeed address all defects that pose a threat to safety. At the same time, NHTSA declined to extend this basic protection to all safety defects, as asked for by Public Citizen and CAS.

“After more than a decade of delay, the rule means that consumers can now expect serious defects to be fixed before they drive a new vehicle off of the lot,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “It helps to preserve a baseline for safety when there is a known and dangerous safety defect.   The changes to the rule were common sense, and the very least that consumers should be able to expect.”



Copyright © 2016 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.

Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation


Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.


To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.