Fiat Chrysler Receives Harsh Criticism from Federal Regulators for Recall Response

Fiat Chrysler Receives Harsh Criticism from Federal Regulators for Recall Response
Image: FCA Group
July 03, 2015

Fiat Chrysler Thursday found itself on the receiving end of harsh criticism from federal regulators who said the company had a dismal response to a variety of dangerous safety defects.

No civil penalties were levied at the end of the rare public hearing, but it's expected that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will take action, which could include fining Fiat Chrysler $35 million for each of the 23 recalls in question.

The New York Times reported that federal officials accused the company of failing to prompt notify vehicle owners of recalls, delaying repairs of defective models and neglecting to notify regulators in changes in recalls schedules.

The 23 recalls, which date back to 2013, cover a variety of defects from faulty wiring to poorly placed gas tanks that ignited after collisions. Parents of one teen that died when his Jeep Wrangler caught fire after a rear end collision spoke at the hearing. They received the recall notice only after the son had died.

About 11 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles were affected by the recalls, many of which had to be fixed again after the company proposed repairs that didn't work. At least 10 consumers reported fires caused by short circuits in their SUV's sun visors after they had been fixed by the dealer.

Officials also said that Fiat Chrysler repeatedly missed notification deadlines and neglected to provide timely and accurate information to regulators.

Fiat Chrysler representatives didn't dispute the claims, saying that the company learned from its mistakes.

The NHTSA's tough stance is a turnaround from previous years when they were criticized by Congress for their own slow pace in responding to safety concerns, particularly faulty ignition switches in tens of millions of General Motors cars. More than 100 deaths have been attributed to the ignition switch issue.

The NHTSA is expected to announce its decision at the end of the public comment period, which closes on July 17.