The world’s biggest automaker has decided to get tougher on carmakers who are breaking down safety barriers, according to the head of the industry’s biggest trade group.
“If you’re going to build an auto product that’s going to last 10 years, you should have some safety devices,” John Reuter, CEO of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), told reporters on Tuesday at a gathering of auto industry executives.
“We’re not going to take that safety for granted,” he added.
The auto industry’s safety record is a long one, Reuter said, pointing to a spate of deaths in 2009, a spate in 2015, a string of recalls in 2016, and the recent death of a man in California whose airbag deployed during a fall on a snowy freeway.
He said there’s a growing recognition that safety features are a necessity to keep automakers competitive and make them financially sustainable.
“What we need to do is make sure that we are providing the necessary safety features and we’re also ensuring that those features are cost effective and that they work,” he said.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Reuters said automakers should invest in their own vehicles to keep them running safely.
“Automakers have the opportunity to be the best they can be,” he told the AP.
“We can be a lot better.
And so we have to make sure we are investing in the vehicles we buy and the technology that we’re building.”
The industry has struggled in recent years to balance its safety costs with profit.
Automakers are also grappling with a series of recalls of newer models as consumers look for better alternatives to old, safety-critical models.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says at least 13,945 people have died in crashes involving vehicles made between 2000 and 2015.
Reuters said that trend could continue if auto makers don’t invest in more sophisticated technology that can automatically react to vehicles’ changing condition.
“You’re going into a situation where you have a situation that you can’t anticipate and you can only anticipate what’s going on,” he warned.
“I think there’s an opportunity to do a better job of designing cars with these technologies in them that are much more accurate.”