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AutoNation CEO Gives Feds Failing Grade In Handling Of Recalls

DETROIT (WWJ) – The nation’s top car dealer says he would give a failing grade to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for its handling of major recalls this year.

“The information on their sites has been confusing,” said AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson, about the recall of cars with faulty airbags.  “They’ve had wrong information on their sites.  They sent a letter to manufacturers and Takata telling them to move more urgently and expediently.  But, nowhere to they answer the question, is the car safe to drive.”

Jackson, speaking Thursday to the Detroit Economic Club, said he’s received ten different messages from ten different manufacturers.

“When you ask who can get everybody on the same page?  It would appear the regulator should be the one that does that, NHTSA.”

The reason that the recalls haven’t hurt car sales, Jackson says, is that most of the vehicles being recalled for serious safety issues are older models.  But, he does feel 60 million recalls, in one year — during a time when vehicles are safer than ever — is undermining the public’s trust in the auto industry.

“Quite frankly, it’s a black eye for our industry.”

Jackson touched on a number of topics during his 45 minute appearance at the Dearborn Inn.  He said a renaissance has occurred among domestic manufacturers, adding that better products, improved access to credit and pent up demand have made this a great year for car sales.  Jackson expects sales to remain strong until interest rates rise significantly.

He repeated his support for fracking, as a way to get more oil, saying it could make the U.S. energy independent in five years.

But Jackson repeated his call for a large tax on gasoline, as a way to push drivers into vehicles that are more fuel efficient.

Fuel efficiency gains are coming more from internal combustion engines than from electric vehicles and hybrids, said Jackson, who said electric vehicles are still not cost effective.

However, Jackson disagreed with Michigan’s new law essentially keeping company owned Tesla stores out of the state, saying there are no existing Tesla franchises to protect.

“If Elon Musk want’s to make a mistake and go with an inefficient distribution system, that’s his right as an American,” said Jackson.  “Let him do it.  I’m not afraid of it.  It will be fine.  My phone will ring someday when he really wants to sell some cars.”

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