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Of Shortcomings and Responsibility: The Public Service Edition

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How must it feel to be publicly lashed for being the most disorganized, ineffective, irresponsible and unresponsive government agency in perhaps the history of all government agencies?

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Harsh, yes?

But what if that criticism came from one of the most disorganized, ineffective, irresponsible and unresponsive government bodies ever in the history of government bodies?

Probably takes some of the sting out, right?

Such a pot-calling-the-kettle-black moment happened last week when a subcommittee of the amazing U.S. Senate ran roughshod over NHTSA deputy administrator David Friedman, blasting the acting head of the agency for its shortcomings over, well, the past 15 years.

The primary focus was, of course, the more recent General Motors safety issues and multi-million-vehicle recall, and, more specifically, how lax NHTSA appears to have been in addressing known problems before they became significant and massive and deadly. The longer course, of course, was the agency’s similar head-in-the-sand approach to the now famous Ford-Firestone fiasco.

That nearly 15-year-old driver safety matter became a huge embarrassment for NHTSA in recent years when the Washington Post (among others) dug deep to uncover major agency missteps that could have averted some of the problems and deaths.

During last week’s hearing, Friedman looked lost, according to reports, and even as he was being roasted, he fired back by blaming GM for creating “a culture of “denial and delay that cost lives and endangered the American public.”

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The Senators, already painted for creating a culture of denial and delay, were not amused. Stated Sen. Claire McCaskill after the hearing: “He (Friedman) was more focused on trying to rebut a news article than he was on trying to take responsibility for the problems his agency had.”

If only the Senate could see itself so clearly….

* * * * * * *

File this under” “A Proud Record Not Likely to be Seen Again.”

Swedish automaker Koenigsegg, whom you have never heard of, set the record for the smallest vehicle recall in history earlier this year when it voluntarily called back a single vehicle.

One car. Albeit, one supercar. The Koenigsegg Agera, the subject vehicle, sells for $1.3 million.

The single U.S. owner was found quite easily, no thanks to NHTSA, which was busy trying to blame GM for this problem, as well.

Why was it being recalled you ask? A minor software glitch that impacts the vehicle’s TPMS warning lamp.

Finally, a car company that actually takes responsibility for its shortcomings.

* * * * * * * * *

For the last several quarters, Pep Boys has noted its failures in the tire-selling game, but shuffled the blame for this fiscal shortcoming on the economy. They’d moan and whine about how hard the market was, and how tire pricing hurt them, and so on.

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Well, welcome to the tire business, Manny, Moe and Jack.

So it was a bit amusing that even as the struggling parts retailers/service center pointed to its “Road Ahead” store remake as key to its future, it slipped that Pep Boys may be closing some 63 under-performing “Supercenter” stores.

Each one of those “Road Ahead’ conversions, by the way, cost around $400,000 each. CEO and president Mike Odell said Pep Boys plans to eventually convert all of its Supercenter format stores over to the new Road Ahead format, a tidy $200 million investment.

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