First-Ever Federal Vehicle Fee Introduced

Sen. Jay Rock­e­feller, D-W.Va., chair­man of the Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee intro­duced the Motor Vehi­cle Safe­ty Act of 2014 that would give the Nation­al High­way Traf­fic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion more fund­ing to con­duct more inves­ti­ga­tions and stronger pow­ers to get unsafe vehi­cles off the road more quick­ly. It would boost fund­ing for fed­er­al auto safe­ty over­sight by more than $100 mil­lion to $280 mil­lion by 2017.

“If NHTSA doesn’t have the resources or capa­bil­i­ties to pro­tect the dri­ving pub­lic and ful­fill its mis­sion, then Con­gress must step in and give this agency what it needs to meet these crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant goals,” Rock­e­feller said. “For the past 15 years many of us have attempt­ed to bol­ster NHTSA’s author­i­ty, pre­cise­ly to bet­ter pre­vent tragedies like the deaths caused by GM’s faulty igni­tion switch­es.

The bill comes amid intense con­cern by Con­gress over Gen­er­al Motors Co. fail­ure to recall 2.6 mil­lion vehi­cles linked to at least 13 deaths for igni­tion switch defects.

Both Rockefeller’s and the House bill would cre­ate a new, $3-per-vehi­cle fee to fund a hike in auto safe­ty enforce­ment by NHTSA, and would rise to $9 in three years, then go up with infla­tion every year.

In April, Rep. Hen­ry Wax­man, D-Calif., the rank­ing mem­ber of the House Ener­gy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee, rein­tro­duced a fee that would ini­tial­ly raise about $45 mil­lion to $50 mil­lion a year based on cur­rent sales vol­ume.

Sim­i­lar bills were intro­duced in Con­gress in 2010 in the wake of Toy­ota Motor Corp.’s sud­den accel­er­a­tion prob­lems but nei­ther got a vote by either the full House or Sen­ate. Both Rock­e­feller and Wax­man, two of the key advo­cates on auto safe­ty in Con­gress, are retir­ing this year.

Both bills would also pro­hib­it car deal­ers from sell­ing used vehi­cles with known pend­ing safe­ty recalls with­out fix­ing the defect or mak­ing the con­sumer aware of the defect. Cur­rent­ly, only new car deal­ers are required to make recall repairs before sell­ing a vehi­cle.

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