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U.S. wants early data on potential auto defects

Reuters reported in Japan Today that U.S. regulators want the auto and tire industries to regularly report data on fatalities, injury and damage claims, and consumer complaints to flag potential defects and prevent another safety debacle like the one involving Firestone tires.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed long-awaited regulations over the past week, under a law passed in 2000 in response to Firestone tire tread separations and rollover crashes linked to 271 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

"This is going to be very controversial," said one Transportation Department official who noted that the auto and tire industries have never been held to such a rigorous reporting standard.

Currently, companies identify defects and then report information on deaths, injuries or claims to the government, which determines the scope of any investigation.

The proposed regulations would make the industries report a wide range of information as part of an early warning initiative.

The auto and tire industries say they favor requirements that boost auto safety, but are wary of wholesale data distribution that might not help safety or might be misinterpreted.

A 17-month government NHTSA investigation prompted the recall of 10 million Firestone tires in 2000 and 2001, most of which were installed as standard equipment on the Ford xplorer sport utility vehicle.

Firestone is a unit of Japan-based Bridgestone Corp