The following is a statement by Josephine S. Cooper, President and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers on proposed safety legislation in the U.S. Congress:

"The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers supports the intent of safety legislation being considered on Capitol Hill this week. Faster information flow will help improve both early detection and speedy correction of safety- related defects in vehicles and motor vehicle equipment.

"In its haste to further protect consumers from potential safety defects, Congress should not produce defective legislation. As Congress considers how to move forward, we are providing information on the real-world limits and unintended negative consequences of certain legislative proposals. We are trying to help ensure that any safety legislation is workable, enforceable, and focused in areas that make a real difference.

"One area of concern is criminal penalties. In the effort to criminalize egregious disregard for public safety, vaguely worded proposed legislation may inadvertently criminalize specific products and legitimate engineering design decisions.

"For 34 years, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act has defined a 'defect' only as a 'defect.' It is a subjective definition often requiring a judgment call, and reasonable people can disagree on what constitutes a safety-related defect under the Act. For example, several years ago federal courts agreed with a vehicle manufacturer that the brake design of one of its models was not defective, even though the federal government had sued that company to compel a recall. The legislation being considered today could have subjected such good faith disagreements to criminal sanctions.

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agrees there is not always a bright line where it is clear that a safety-related defect exists. In testimony last week, the NHTSA Administrator acknowledged that the agency takes 16 months on average to determine if a safety-related defect exists. Proposed legislation would put someone in jail for not quickly identifying a defect that may exist, even when the defect in question is not immediately obvious to expert investigators after more than a year of examination.

"As another example of real-world considerations, some new worldwide data collection proposals, which are not even related to safety or products sold in America, would generate mountains of paper that would bury any useful insights the data might contain. This would actually inhibit efforts to improve auto safety. While the industry supports providing NHTSA with additional information that would help the agency and the industry to identify safety- related defects sooner, many of the legislative proposals go far beyond this reasonable goal, mandating the collection and analysis of specific information, regardless of whether NHTSA finds such information useful.

"For example, it is not feasible to expect manufacturers to identify and investigate every injury-producing crash. NHTSA already has a database of every motor vehicle fatality, but there are more than 17,000 police-reported crashes every day in the U.S. alone. This legislation would include crashes in all other countries as well, where crash investigations can be even more difficult to investigate because record keeping is often scarce, inconsistent and non-centralized. Analyzing and reporting these crashes to NHTSA will produce hundreds of thousands of pages of paper, but will not add to the base of knowledge on safety defect trends because most motor vehicle crashes are not caused by defects.

"Even if these numbers were not so daunting, there are practical reasons why such a reporting requirement is not feasible. No automotive manufacturer is routinely notified of such accidents. There is no orderly system for finding out that a crash occurred unless the owner (or police, an insurance company, or a hospital) elects to notify the manufacturer. Yet police investigations, insurance liability, and medical records privacy preclude such notification. Even if a manufacturer learns of an accident, the damaged vehicle would likely have been repaired or junked, making it difficult to perform a meaningful analysis of the causes of the accident. If the vehicle has not been repaired yet, such an investigation would prevent the owner from having the vehicle repaired. This is simply not a workable proposal.

"Congress needs to recognize the real-world limits and consequences of possible legislative measures before taking action. We share the goals of the proposed legislation; however, Congress should not rush to enact measures that may well have the unintended effect of retarding, not accelerating, early detection and speedy correction of safety-related defects in vehicles and motor vehicle equipment."

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is a coalition of 13 car and light truck manufacturers. Member companies are BMW Group, DaimlerChrysler, Fiat, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. Alliance member companies have approximately 600,000 employees in the United States, with more than 250 facilities in 35 states. Alliance members represent more than 90 percent of U.S. vehicle sales. For more information, visit the Alliance website at www.autoalliance.org.