NHTSA Adds New Recall Cases to Fiat Chrysler Hearing Agenda
On July 2, 2015, Fiat Chrysler will be the subject of a public hearing conducted by the NHTSA over what they deem to be repeated instances of having a careless attitude toward recalling defective vehicles. Just days before the hearing, the NHTSA has added two more recall cases to the agenda for the hearing. Originally, the hearing was meant to cover 20 recall cases covering 11 million vehicles, but that number has recently grown to 22 and added another million cars to the total.
For an automaker to be the subject of a public hearing such as this is rather unusual. However, the NHTSA says Fiat Chrysler has repeatedly failed to notify consumers of recalls in a timely manner and have failed to make replacement parts available. During the hearing, Fiat Chrysler will attempt to explain their handling of these recalls and the public will be allowed to present evidence.
NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind told the Detroit Free Press, “20 recalls are a problem — 10 million vehicles. There’s a pattern here of things we’re concerned about. And they aren’t just little things — they were big things including major safety issues related to fire, door latches that would open when people were driving. It’s not just, ‘Oh, they were late on something.’ If they didn’t start, it was late, which means all that time people were at risk. And they told us something different.”
Among the recall cases that will be included in the public hearing is the recall of over a million Jeeps manufactured between 1993 and 2007, which was launched in June of 2013. These Jeeps had rear-mounted fuel tanks that were placed too low, which increased the risk of a fire breaking out if the vehicle was hit from behind. The poorly placed fuel tanks have been linked to over 70 fires, which have caused over 50 deaths. Although it has been two years since this recall was started, the recall is currently only about 20% complete, which the NHTSA has called “unacceptable.”
One of the other cases included in the hearing concerns another 2013 recall of 1 million trucks with steering problems. In that case, there were problems with the replacement part and Fiat Chrysler stopped shipment of the parts. In another case, the NHTSA says Fiat Chrysler hadn’t notified owners of defective vehicles of the issue nearly six months after filing a defect report. In a 2013 recall of 278,000 trucks and SUVs with a faulty pinion nut, the NHTSA says they are still getting complaints from consumers saying they haven’t been able to have the defect fixed because the necessary parts are unavailable.
If the NHTSA determines that Fiat Chrysler failed to meet the legal requirements for any of the recalls, Chrysler could be facing a fine of up to $35 million for each recall they didn’t meet the requirements for. Or the NHTSA could also force the automaker to take specific actions to become compliant, which could potentially include ordering Fiat Chrysler to refund the price of the defective car, minus depreciation, or replace vehicles.
Fiat Chrysler says they are attempting to improve their handling of recalls by increasing the number of product investigators by 65% over the past year.