About The Center

Our Mission

The Center for Auto Safety is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for auto safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of our members and all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Our History

The Center for Auto Safety was founded in 1970 by Consumers Union and Ralph Nader as a consumer safety group to protect drivers. Ralph Nader, the author of Unsafe at Any Speed, believed that automakers and the government were not adequately regulating safety, and an independent outside watchdog was needed. In order to be close to those entities most in need of oversight—Congress and federal regulators—the Center has always called Washington, DC home.

Over the last 5 decades, the Center has led the fight to:

  • Enact lemon laws in every state, and the District of Columbia, that make it easy to return a defective car;
  • Expose vehicles with unsafe fuel systems that have burned to death over 1,000 people who would otherwise have survived the trauma of the crash;
  • Enact State laws to force disclosure of secret warranties on cars that can save consumers billions of dollars each year;
  • Strengthen safety and highway standards that have dropped the death rate on America’s road from 5.2 per 100 million vehicles mile traveled in 1969 to under 1.2;
  • Save vital consumer, safety and environmental laws under assault by industry by taking legal action against government agencies;
  • And prevent the sale of unsafe used vehicles and parts that are subject to safety recalls.

Major recalls achieved by the Center: 

  • 1971: A recall of nearly 7 million Chevrolet vehicles with defective engine mounts
  • 1978: A recall of the infamous Ford Pinto for its exploding fuel tank
  • 2000: A recall of 23 million Firestone 500 tires
  • 2013: A recall of 5 million Jeep Grand Cherokees prone to engine fires upon rear collisions
  • 2014: A recall of over 0.75 million GM vehicles with defective ignition switches
  • 2018: A recall of all Model Year 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Minivans at risk of engine stall

Clarence M. Ditlow, III

For 40 years, the Center was led by Clarence Ditlow, a well-known safety champion on behalf of consumers, who passed away in 2016. Clarence’s tireless advocacy had a profound impact on automotive safety, and his actions saved countless thousands of lives. Learn more about Clarence’s legacy.

Today

Today, the Center continues our vital role as a watchdog working to protect consumers by representing their interests before the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as other relevant federal agencies. No matter which party controls the White House, the Center pushes for smart and effective safety regulations, and active and tough law enforcement by state and federal authorities. 

The Center serves as resource for consumers who have been stuck with a “lemon” of a car by providing an up-to-date and complete database of lemon laws and warranty rights across the United States. The Center also provides a non-governmental, advertisement-free, location for car owners to submit and search vehicle safety complaints. These complaints often lead to the Center spearheading recall campaigns on behalf of impacted consumers.

Tomorrow

As the automotive industry moves towards a high-tech future, the electric and autonomous vehicle markets will continue to grow. The Center for Auto Safety advocates for government regulations that put the safety of self-driving car users above shareholders and for the fuel economy standards that keep cars efficient and green. We also work to remind the auto industry not to forget about the cars of Today in all the excitement about the cars of Tomorrow.

 

Publications 

  • The Car Book: Since 1980, the Center has published The Car Book annually, the most comprehensive consumer guide to automotive reliability and safety. The Car Book provides an in-depth, accurate, and unbiased look at the safety and reliability of every yearly model available to U.S. drivers. Learn more about our best bets from previous years—and be on the lookout for The Car Book 2018, to be available online in early March. 
  • In 1970, Center co-founder Ralph Nader published What to do With Your Bad Car: An Action Manual for Lemon Owners, a handbook to assist car buyers after they purchase a lemon.
  • The Center published Mobile Homes: The Low-Cost Housing Hoax in 1975 in order to inform Americans of the pitfalls of buying a mobile home.
  • The Center first published the landmark Lemon Book in 1980, an action manual for lemon owners, and published Little Secrets of the Auto Industry in 1994. These publications have educated thousands of consumers about their rights when dealing with unreliable and unsafe vehicles.
  • In 2003, then-Executive Director Clarence Ditlow contributed to Sudden Acceleration: The Myth of Driver Error, to expose auto companies hiding critical safety defects from car owners.
  • The Center also provides periodical email updates on auto safety and Center news to it’s members and followers. Sign up for our e-newsletter.

Safe Climate Campaign

The Center for Auto Safety has always been a leading voice for fuel economy. Not only do fuel efficient vehicles help consumers in their wallets, they help save the environment. In furtherance of this mission, in 2008 the Center launched a new project: the Safe Climate Campaign. The Safe Climate Campaign fights global warming by working for big, specific measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We run tough advocacy campaigns to:

  • Slash auto emissions and cut the nation’s oil use in half;
  • Pressure federal and state governments to adopt steps that dramatically cut global warming pollution;
  • Hold polluters and government officials accountable, to achieve the maximum reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; and,
  • Educate the public about global warming and the actions that will combat it.

Learn more about the Safe Climate Campaign.

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