By Christopher Jensen
Last year, owners of about 16.2 million cars and trucks received letters saying their vehicles had safety problems and were being recalled. But millions more were left in recall limbo because some of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigations into possible safety problems have been taking years longer than the agency’s self-imposed goal.
Consequently, some owners may be unknowingly driving vehicles with problems, said Joan Claybrook, the onetime agency administrator and former head of Public Citizen, a consumer protection group.
Some consumer advocates say the agency needs more investigators.
But that’s not true, said David Strickland, the agency’s current administrator. “Clearly we are able to succeed in executing our mission and doing it very well with the staff on hand and the expertise that we have on hand,” he said in a telephone interview.
Among the consumers Ms. Claybrook worries about are 1.5 million owners of 2002-5 Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers and about 1.7 million owners of 1999-2003 General Motors full-size pickups and sport utility vehicles.