Gears on a blueprint

NHTSA Investigations & Counseling

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulates motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment (such as tires and child restraints) through its Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).

The requirements set by NHTSA’s FMVSS are both arcane and extensive. Suppliers of these products are required to self-certify that their products meet these standards, and their compliance is then audited by NHTSA. When those audit reports find discrepancies, investigations are opened, and the inquiries to suppliers can be lengthy and demanding. They require a careful and organized response, and benefit from the insight of counsel who have seen these inquiries before.

Independent of NHTSA audits, suppliers must determine whether a product has a compliance issue or possible defects relating to motor vehicle safety. If so, these decisions in turn require timely reporting to NHTSA and negotiations over the scope of any remedy and the notifications to which consumers are entitled. The timing of these filings can be the subject of further investigations and possible assessed penalties. 

Some violations of federal standards can be deemed “inconsequential” to motor vehicle safety and avoid the need for a recall. But that decision is for NHTSA to make, and a petition seeking this exemption must both be timely filed and with an informed understanding of how NHTSA views these petitions.

We assist clients with:

  • Reporting of potential defects to NHTSA (Part 573)
  • TREAD reporting
  • Petitions for Inconsequential Noncompliance
  • Defense and resolution of NHTSA penalty investigations
  • Independent audits of standards compliance procedures pursuant to NHTSA consent orders or for general due diligence
  • Product liability defense of regulated products

Key Contacts