This Is What The U.S. Auto Industry Calls A 'Strange Odor'

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Look at that picture. See the conflagration? The inferno? The fiery mark of Satan himself? That’s what the auto industry in the United States defines as a “strange odor,” according to a scathing and relentless investigation into the people who are supposed to keep you safe.

And that thing you’re smelling right now is what we in the business call “bullshit.”

We’re still going through the full U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General Audit Report of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (catchiest name in the world, I know), but in addition to findings that NHTSA basically ignores the pleas for help from average Americans, we’ve also noticed new and fun tidbits.


Those tidbits include the fact that NHTSA is essentially just completely relying upon manufacturer self-reporting at this point. And when you’re the one responsible for getting yourself in trouble, you tend to just make shit up.

And in this case, “making shit up” includes just straight up making up a new definition for the word “fire,” since you don’t like that F-word so much:

However, according to ODI staff,manufacturers routinely miscategorize safety incidents. For example, staff told usthat some manufacturers avoid using the word “fire” in non-dealer field reportsand instead use phrases such as “strange odor” to avoid categorizing an incident asfire-related.

In case the Governmentese language is a bit hard to get through there, it’s pretty much the car companies’ responsibility to report whenever something’s gone seriously wrong with one of their products.

A car catching fire is definitely considered to be something going seriously wrong.


But manufacturers don’t like using the word “fire,” as it can cause panic, much like there was when a few examples of the Tesla Model S when up in flames. So instead, they just report that one of their customers noted something smelling pretty funny.

Which is an exemplary use of understatement, to put it lightly.

Of course, you’d expect NHTSA, being the watchdog that it is, to see through all the lies and misdirection and immediately call the companies out on their crap. Except they don’t. For reasons that are unclear. Beyond “well that’s just NHTSA these days.”


Anyways, we’re still going through the full report. You can read it along with us here, if you feel like clawing your eyes out on a lovely Monday morning. If you see anything really fascinating, feel free to share it with us in the comments.

Photo credit: Marcel André Briefs

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