The bill would make employees and contractors eligible for 30 percent of federal fines if they share information regarding undisclosed product defects or reporting violations.
The measure has reportedly received support from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which sees a benefit in encouraging employees to internally report problems.
“That is a good outcome for vehicle owners,” spokesman Wade Newton told Reuters.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week called for more enforcement leverage to use against companies that do not comply with federal safety regulations. The agency wants fine caps to be raised from $35 million to at least $300 million.
Both the NHTSA’s fine proposal and the whistleblower bill coincide with the ongoing investigation into Japanese supplier Takata. Former employees claim to have been aware of airbag inflator problems more than a decade ago, but were allegedly told to destroy test records. The company is currently being fined $14,000/day — the maximum allowed by law — until it complies with government document requests.