After bruising safety crisis, US car watchdog shows its bite

Updated 24 May 2015
Follow

After bruising safety crisis, US car watchdog shows its bite

WASHINGTON: The US auto safety watchdog, long criticized as toothless and slow, is showing both bark and bite under its new boss — a testimony to his credentials as a safety expert and a hardening of the administration’s policy after a wave of deadly defects.
Having taken the helm of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in January, Mark Rosekind has wasted no time in forcing reluctant companies into recalling millions of defective vehicles. In doing so, he has shown greater willingness than some of his predecessors to use the government’s full legal powers over the industry, some for the first time.
In the past week alone, the agency announced the biggest recall in history, involving nearly 34 million vehicles with potentially deadly Takata Corp. air bags.
It also scheduled a rare public hearing to review Fiat Chrysler recalls involving 10 million vehicles and warned of potential multiple penalties that could total $700 million.
Rosekind, 60, took over the regulator after a bruising year of criticism from the public and Congress over failures to respond quickly to major safety crises. And he came with clear marching orders from Washington: take dangerous vehicles off US roads.
“We brought him in to bring it,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.
“Having someone who personifies the kind of aggressiveness with which we expect the agency to operate is healthy for external stakeholders as well as our own folks at DOT (Department of Transportation) and NHTSA.”
Current and former officials say recalls did not always serve as a top priority for earlier administrators.
For instance, David Kelly, who filled the job on an acting basis at the end of the George W. Bush administration, focused on fuel economy.
During that administration, the agency’s preferred approach was to address safety issues through voluntary service campaigns, though they were still outnumbered by recalls. Critics say a similar approach continued into President Barack Obama’s administration.
“We finally have a NHTSA administrator who wants to be the cop on the beat,” said Joan Claybrook, who led the agency in the 1970s.
Rosekind declined to be interviewed for the story.
David Strickland, the last permanent NHTSA administrator who served between 2010 and 2013, told Reuters that Rosekind was looking for new levers to bring change, just as past agency chiefs did.
“I used tools that were uncommon when I was administrator,” said Strickland, who pointed to $49 million in civil penalties he levied against Toyota Motor Corp. Up to then, he said, the regulator’s biggest ever fine had totaled only $1 million.
During his tenure, the agency drew fire for being slow to act on unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles, and over an agreement with Fiat Chrysler to limit the recall of Jeep vehicles equipped with fuel tanks that could rupture and catch fire in crashes.
Now an attorney who represents an automaker group that includes Toyota, Strickland said the compromise reached on Jeep vehicles in 2013 prevented a drawn-out legal battle that would have kept unsafe cars on the roads for years.
The same recalls will now be scrutinized at Rosekind’s hearing in July.
Several other former NHTSA chiefs were unavailable for comment.

COMMANDING PRESENCE
The appointment of Rosekind, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board, raised eyebrows because of his lack of auto industry background but was welcomed by safety advocates, who viewed his public safety expertise credentials as eclipsing those of many of his predecessors.
Distinguished by a towering frame and gray mane, Rosekind is a Stanford- and Yale-educated expert who worked as a scientific consultant before spending four years at the NTSB, where he took part in seven major accident investigations.
“He thrived under pressure and was a commanding, decisive presence at accident scenes,” said Debbie Hersman, who chaired the NTSB at the time.
Former NHTSA officials say a lack of safety expertise has made it hard for some administrators to press for recalls internally.
A congressional report released last year said the agency for years either overlooked or failed to grasp evidence identifying a deadly ignition-switch defect in General Motors Co. vehicles, which has led to 104 deaths and 2.6 million recalls
In its defense, the agency has pointed to its limited resources and enforcement powers. Its Office of Defects Investigation, responsible for monitoring 250 million vehicles on US roads, has a staff of 51 and annual budgets of $10 million — about 4 cents per vehicle. By contrast, GM alone generated net income of $2.8 billion in 2014.
Yet acting within the same constraints, Rosekind has utilized some legal tools that have been available, but rarely used before.
In the Takata recall, the regulator for the first time is exercising its authority to expedite recalls under the 2000 Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act. The Fiat Chrysler hearing will be the first of its kind for the watchdog since 2012 and the biggest ever.
“He’s using the resources he has and working to change the culture at the agency from one that gets along with the auto industry to one that regulates the auto industry,” said Clarence Ditlow, a leading auto safety advocate who heads Washington-based Center for Auto Safety. The agency now has a boss who is not tied to the auto industry, but knows Washington and regulation, Ditlow said.
Automakers and Wall Street investors expect the new tough regulator to drive up industry costs by forcing companies to boost reserves for future recalls after a record 64 million vehicles were recalled last year.
Yet bringing lasting change remains a daunting challenge for Rosekind, whose term will end along with Obama’s in early 2017.
Takata’s airbag recall alone could take years to complete as automakers scramble to line up replacement parts.
“The next two years is going to be a sprint,” Rosekind said in March. “We have no time to waste.”


Riyadh Air signs 5-year deal to use GE Aerospace’s software

Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Riyadh Air signs 5-year deal to use GE Aerospace’s software

  • Partnership will equip airline with data-driven analytics

LONDON: Riyadh Air signed a five-year agreement on Monday to use GE Aerospace’s flight operations software, the airline has announced.

The partnership will equip the new Saudi Arabian airline with data-driven analytics to optimize fuel consumption, enhance safety measures, and fortify its sustainability initiatives, a statement said.

It added that the Fuel Insight software will help Riyadh Air position itself as a leader in sustainable aviation.

The airline will also use real-time Flight Data Monitoring and Flight Operations Quality Assurance to ensure high standards of safety and quality across its advanced fleet.

Riyadh Air’s use of FlightPulse technology will allow pilots to identify opportunities for improvement and help maintain best practices in safety and efficiency across the airline’s flight operations.

Peter Bellew, chief operating officer at Riyadh Air, said: “Sustainability and efficiency sit at the core of our operations.

“Our collaboration with GE Aerospace represents a significant advancement in adopting state-of-the-art technology to enhance safety protocols, streamline fuel usage, and uphold our dedication to operational excellence, as we are currently preparing for flight trials and working towards obtaining AOC certification, starting (in) September 2024.”

Andrew Coleman, general manager of software at GE Aerospace, said: “With an incredible partner like Riyadh Air, we are thrilled to see our decades of research, development, and innovation empower their transformative digital journey to help them set new benchmarks for operational excellence, safety standards, and more sustainability in the skies.”


Saudi GACA, Germany’s Lilium sign MoU to boost air mobility roadmap   

Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Saudi GACA, Germany’s Lilium sign MoU to boost air mobility roadmap   

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation has inked a deal with German electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle manufacturer Lilium, propelling the Kingdom’s advanced air mobility roadmap.

The memorandum of understanding, signed between the authority and the aerospace firm at the Farnborough International Airshow, supports GACA’s development of AAM solutions in the Kingdom, according to a statement. 

This comes as the authority collaborates with stakeholders and companies globally to create a thorough national plan for AAM. 

This strategy encompasses the essential elements and regulatory framework needed to ensure AAM technologies’ secure and effective integration. During the implementation phase, the focus will be on incorporating eVTOL operations with existing aviation systems and other transportation modes.

The newly signed MoU falls in line with the authority’s engagement with global companies to bring new aviation mobility solutions to Saudi Arabia.

It also aligns well with GACA’s continuous efforts across the industry to ensure the Kingdom has regulations that encourage growth, ensure the highest levels of safety, and put passengers first.

“This agreement reflects GACA’s commitment to advancing innovative and sustainable air mobility solutions for Saudi Arabia in support of Vision 2030,” GACA President Abdulaziz Al-Duailej said. 

“By working with global advanced air mobility companies, we aim to establish a robust regulatory framework that ensures the safe and efficient operation of eVTOL aircraft,” Al-Duailej added. 

From Lilium’s side, CEO Klaus Roewe said: “Our goal is to jointly advance regulatory and practical steps for suitable framework conditions for electric aviation and our customers in Saudi Arabia.”

He added: “Today’s agreement delivers on one of the main ingredients required to successfully launch eVTOL operations — a definitive path to all relevant regulatory cornerstones.”

The announcement builds on the momentum of recent successful air taxi trials in support of GACA’s AAM roadmap development, the statement added. 

Last week, Lilium confirmed that it is making its debut in Saudi Arabia with a groundbreaking agreement to supply up to 100 eVTOL vehicles to Saudia, the Kingdom’s first national carrier.

The formalization of this agreement came after a framework deal was initially arranged in late 2022, making Saudia the first airline in the region to invest in sustainable air mobility. 


Saudi logistics platform OTO secures $8m funding for UAE and Turkiye expansion

Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Saudi logistics platform OTO secures $8m funding for UAE and Turkiye expansion

RIYADH: Saudi logistics platform OTO is set to expand into the UAE and Turkiye, following a successful SR30 million ($8 million) series A funding round. 

The company announced that the financing was led by Sanabil Investments, a wholly-owned entity of the Public Investment Fund, with additional contributions from Sadu Capital, and Iliad Partners. Propeller and Soma Capital also participated in the deal, according to a press release. 

This follows a previous raise of SR12.3 million from venture capital funds and angel investors including Middle East Venture Partners, Derayah Ventures, and 500 Global.  

This investment supports Saudi Arabia's National Logistics Strategy, which seeks to rank the Kingdom among the top 10 countries globally in performance in the sector by the end of the decade, in line with Vision 2030 objectives. 

Mohammad Al-Razaz, co-founder and CEO of OTO, said: “Securing this funding round is a testament to our team’s dedication and our commitment to transforming the shipping and logistics sector in line with Saudi Vision 2030.”   

The company claims its platform integrates with over 250 local and international shipping companies and e-commerce platforms, enabling merchants to manage, ship, track, and analyze their logistics activities.   

The platform also offers merchants the option to connect their own shipping contracts or purchase shipping labels at pre-negotiated rates. 

He added: “We are focused on delivering innovative solutions that enable merchants to streamline their operations and manage logistics with unmatched efficiency.”

Investor confidence in OTO’s platform is bolstered by projections showing Saudi Arabia’s e-commerce revenue is expected to grow at 13.5 percent annually through 2027, outpacing the global average growth rate of 11.2 percent, according to Agility Logistics. 

The platform plans to use this funding to expand its presence in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Turkiye by adding new features and enhancing its platform, focusing on small and medium-sized businesses and e-commerce merchants. 

The release stated that the Turkish e-commerce market is projected to grow at an annual rate of 11.58 percent from 2024 to 2029, reaching $49.5 billion by 2029.   

“The last few years have put a significant spotlight on the shipping industry and increased the need for smart shipping solutions. OTO has built a platform with a fully integrated set of functionalities to help companies of all shapes and sizes meet their logistics requirements,” a spokesperson from Sanabil Investments stated.  

OTO serves over 10,000 local and international brands and has seen its revenue double along with a notable increase in orders processed year-over-year. 

Furkan Uzar, chief technology officer and co-founder of OTO, said that this funding propels the company toward its vision of becoming the shipping gateway of the internet.   

“By bridging the tech gap between sales channels and shipping providers, we can accelerate our growth and offer customers streamlined, automated shipping solutions,” he added. 


Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,174

Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Closing Bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,174

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Monday, losing 28.17 points, or 0.23 percent, to close at 12,174.76. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR8.34 billion ($2.22 billion) as 127 of the stocks advanced, while 96 retreated.  

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu rose 277.53 points, or 1.08 percent, to close at 26,040.47. This comes as 35 of the listed stocks advanced, while 30 fell. 

The MSCI Tadawul Index lost 6.03 points, or 0.39 percent, to close at 1,523.43.

The best-performing stock of the day was Dr. Soliman Abdel Kader Fakeeh Hospital Co. The company’s share price surged 7.02 percent to SR64.

Other top performers were Sadr Logistics Co. as well as United Cooperative Assurance Co.

The worst performer was Al Sagr Cooperative Insurance Co., whose share price dropped by 4.78 percent to SR21.90. 

Other stocks to fall were Miahona Co. and ACWA Power Co.

On the announcements front, Aldrees Petroleum and Transport Services Co. has announced its interim financial results for the period ending on June 30. 

According to a Tadawul statement, the firm’s net profit stood at SR159.8 million at the end of the first six months of 2024, up 13.4 percent from the corresponding period in 2023. 

The increase in net profit is due to the rise in petrol and transport division sales, deposit income, and sukuk, as well as the revenue from the joint venture project investment. 

There was a decrease in the other income and increase marketing, selling, and general costs as well as administrative, financing, and zakat expenses.

Saudi Exchange also announced the listing and trading units of SEDCO Capital Multi Asset Traded Fund as a closed ended investment traded fund on the main market on July 24 with the symbol 4703 and ISIN Code SA162G529FL8, and with +/- 30 percent daily price fluctuation limits and +/- 10 percent static price fluctuation limits.

A bourse filing revealed that these fluctuation limits will be applied during the first three days of listing, and from the fourth trading day onwards, the daily price fluctuation limits will revert to +/- 10 percent and the static price fluctuation limits will no longer apply.


Saudi Arabia awards 4 salt exploration licenses in Eastern Province

Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Saudi Arabia awards 4 salt exploration licenses in Eastern Province

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has granted exploration licenses for salt deposits in Eastern Province’s Sabkha Ras Al-Qaryah to four companies following a competitive tendering process.     

The winning firms are Khalid Al-Zahid and Sons Co., Ibrahim Al-Issa and Partner Salt Co., Riyadh Salt Industry Co., and Rastan Limited, as announced by Jarrah bin Muhammad Al-Jarrah, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources.    

Al-Jarrah noted that the ministry received six applications for the exploration licenses, announced in March through a mining platform. Five applications passed the qualification stage, while one did not meet the requirements.  

This aligns with the government’s goal of maximizing the Kingdom’s mineral resources, valued at SR9.3 trillion ($2.4 trillion), in line with Saudi Vision 2030. The initiative aims to enhance licensing transparency, promote national industries, and contribute to local content development and job creation.    

In its earlier release, the ministry revealed that the total area of the four sites offered for competition is 5 sq. km. The Ras Al-Qaryah complex, a coastal sabkha located approximately 4 km from the sea, has naturally exposed salt deposits in some locations on its surface.   

It added that the salt ore in the area is deposited in a stratified form and is suitable for various industrial applications. It supports the manufacturing and petrochemical industries, as well as the production of high-purity table salt and food-grade salt. This ore is refined into high-quality industrial salt with a purity of approximately 99 percent sodium chloride. 

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia unveiled its largest mineralized belts to date, covering 4,788 sq. km and granting five new exploration licenses. 

Three of these licenses are allocated to the Jabal Sayid site in Madinah, spanning 2,892 sq. km and containing minerals such as gold, silver, copper, zinc, and lead. 

The remaining two licenses are for the Al-Hajjar site in the Asir region, which covers 1,896 sq. km and also includes gold, silver, copper, zinc, and lead, according to a statement from the ministry.

According to a MineHutte and Mining Journal report, Saudi Arabia has experienced the fastest global growth in mining sector investments. Over the past five years, the Kingdom has enhanced its regulatory and infrastructural environment, achieving the second-best global ranking for mining licensing.