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What is the Office of Defects, and what does it do?

It seems to be the case that a federal office tasked with broad oversight of vehicle safety issues relating to both passenger and commercial vehicles and equipment could use a bit more oversight itself.

Put another way: In response to the question of what it is precisely that the so-called Office of Defects Investigation does, the answer might reasonably seem to be that the ODI does very little, and that much of what it does focus upon is not done particularly well.

As noted in a recent media article discussing the ODI, that entity operates under the auspices of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It mandate is the above-mentioned oversight of vehicle-related matters that pose a potential or actual danger to American consumers.

Recent ODI-related testimony delivered by the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III clearly reveals a concern that the office needs to materially up its game in order to fulfill its safety-related function.

Indeed, a questioning of its efficacy was what precipitated Scovel's review, following successive and troubling stories regarding General Motor's tardy recall pertaining to a deadly ignition-switch problem in many of its vehicles notwithstanding an early warning received by ODI investigators. The troubling time gap between that on-notice warning and actual remedial measures being taken by GM prompted DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx to direct Scovel to closely examine the ODI.

The IG's report, delivered before a Senate committee earlier this summer, lambasted the ODI on multiple fronts, centrally noting its inability to timely collect and analyze relevant safety data.

The report additionally noted that the ODI's statistical analysis is not uniformly exacting and that the office fails badly in properly screening safety complains received by consumers across the country.

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