The Obama administration and some members of Congress want to give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sweeping new authority to get unsafe cars off the road quickly.
And they want higher fines to deter automakers from delaying recalls.
Some in Congress want to go further: They have promised big hikes in NHTSA’s budget and to add dozens of investigators. A separate measure would subject auto executives to up to five years in prison for failing to disclose dangerous safety defects within 24 hours.
The nation’s auto safety agency has taken a much more aggressive role in recent years. It began after criticism in 2010 that NHTSA didn’t do more to prod Toyota Motor Corp. to address sudden acceleration complaints before a fatal crash near San Diego. It stepped up its role even more this year as a result of delayed General Motors Co. recalls for defective ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths.