The Center for Auto Safety is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(3) consumer advocacy non-profit group focused on the United States automotive industry. Founded in 1970 by Consumers Union and Ralph Nader, the group focuses its efforts on enacting reform though public advocacy and pressuring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and automakers through litigation. For decades, it was led by Executive Director Clarence Ditlow, who died in late 2016 from cancer. Ditlow was widely admired in the auto safety community,although he also had detractors among auto manufacturers. The Center for Auto Safety is currently led by Executive Director Jason Levine.
The Center for Auto Safety (the Center) was founded in 1970 by Consumers Union and Ralph Nader as a consumer safety group to protect drivers. Ralph Nader, the author of Unsafe at Any Speed, believed that automakers and the government were not adequately regulating safety. For many years, the Center was led by Clarence Ditlow, a well-known consumer safety advocate. The Center has advocated vigorously for driver safety and automaker accountability by pressuring government agencies and automakers with many lawsuits campaigns. The Center has also published The Car Book annually, which presents the latest safety ratings, dealer prices, fuel economy, insurance premiums, and maintenance costs for new vehicles.
The Center for Auto Safety counts the enacting of Lemon Laws in all 50 states among its greatest successes. The Center has testified over 50 times before Congressional Committees on auto safety, warranties and service bulletins, air pollution, consumer protection, and fuel economy. The Center was the leading consumer advocate in passage of Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, fuel economy provisions of Energy Policy and Conservation Act and Technical Service Bulletin disclosure in MAP-21. The Center recently succeeded in a lawsuit against DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, forcing NHTSA to make public all manufacturer communications to dealers regarding safety issues. Additionally, former Center Executive Director Clarence Ditlow and Ralph Nader published The Lemon Book in 1980 to educate drivers on how to avoid buying a "lemon" and what to do if they purchase one.
The Center for Auto Safety has been involved in many campaigns to pressure automakers and NHTSA to issue recalls on dangerous car parts. Throughout its history, the Center has played a major role in numerous recalls including 6.7 million Chevrolets for defective engine mounts, 15 million Firestone 500 tires, 1.5 million Ford Pintos for exploding gas tanks, 3 million Evenflo child seats for defective latches. More recently, the Center was the main proponent for recalls of 7 million Toyotas for sudden acceleration, 2 million Jeeps for fuel tank fires, 11 million GM vehicles for defective ignition switches, and over 60 million exploding Takata airbag inflators.
The Center for Auto Safety counts numerous far-reaching efforts among its successes:
- "Lemon laws" enacted in all 50 states
- State laws requiring auto manufacturers to disclose "hidden" warranties to consumers
- The Firestone tire recall
- The Ford Pinto recall due to its dangerous gas tank design
- Exposure of a potentially lethal gas tank design in General Motors pickup trucks
- Improved U.S. highway safety standards administered by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- Recall of Jeep vehicles with fuel tanks that could explode in rear impact
- Pressuring General Motors to take action on their faulty airbags and ignition switches
- Annual publication of The Car Book to inform drivers of the safety of specific models
- Better protection for drivers against rollover and roof crush in SUVs
- Maintaining an online database of vehicle safety complaints submitted to the Center
- The Center for Auto Safety — official website
- The Safe Climate Campaign — official website of the Safe Climate Campaign
- CAS Vehicle Complaints Database — CAS online database for auto safety complaints
- "Clarence Ditlow, crusading consumer advocate for auto safety, dies at 72". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-06-23.
- "Center for Auto Safety names Ditlow's successor". www.autosafety.org. 2017-08-15. Retrieved 2017-06-23.
- McFadden, Robert D. (2016-11-11). "Clarence M. Ditlow III, Auto Safety Crusader, Dies at 72". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
- "Annual Car Book picks the safest cars, trucks, and SUVs for 2017". ConsumerAffairs. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
- "Center for Auto Safety Executive Director Clarence Ditlow dies". Autoblog. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
- "Center for Auto Safety Sues Over 'Technical Service Bulletins'". CarComplaints.com. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
- Nader, Ralph; Ditlow, Clarence; Kinnard, Joyce (1980). The Lemon Book. Caroline House Publishers. ISBN 9780898030396.
- Flint, Jerry M. (1971-12-05). "6.7 MILLION CARS FACE G.M. RECALL". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
- Geyelin, Milo (2000-08-22). "Auto-Safety Group Files Suit to Pressure Ford, Firestone to Expand Tire Recall". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
- "Ford Motor Company" (PDF). Ford Motor Company. June 15, 1978. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
- Jensen, Christopher (2008-03-16). "'Catastrophic' Failure Leads to Child Seat Recall". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
- "Unintended Acceleration Not Limited To Toyotas". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
- Press, Associated. "Safety advocate asks gov't to reopen Jeep fire investigation". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
- "Takata Airbag Recall Should Be Expanded, Center for Auto Safety Says | Edmunds". Edmunds. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
- "About Us". The Center for Auto Safety. Retrieved 2006-02-26.
- "GM pickup trucks — fuel tanks and the media spotlight". Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Archived from the original on July 1, 2011. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- Jensen, Christopher. "Consumer Group Calls Chrysler's Jeep Fix Inadequate". Wheels Blog. Retrieved 2017-10-04.
- "NHTSA Asked to Investigate More GM Air-Bag Failures". Bloomberg.com. 2014-04-07. Retrieved 2017-10-04.
- "Which cars are the safest? It's hard to tell from the government's ratings". ConsumerAffairs. Retrieved 2017-10-04.
- "Self-made activist to raise roof at summit". Automotive News. Retrieved 2017-10-04.