Hearing Over Chrysler Recall Failures Scheduled by NHTSA

Federal regulators are holding a public hearing to review whether automaker Fiat Chrysler has failed to meet its legal obligations under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to remedy over 10 million vehicles included in 20 separate recalls. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on May 18, that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has scheduled a public hearing for July 2, 2015, to determine whether Chrysler has failed its legal obligations to recognize, recall, notify and repair in a timely manner an estimated total of 10,148,185 vehicles recalled over the last several years.

The hearing will be open to the public and witnesses from the NHTSA, the automaker, and consumers will be able to present evidence on Fiat Chrysler’s performance in each recall.

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If the NHTSA determines that the automaker failed its legal obligations set forth under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, potential ramifications could include orders to buy back or replace the affected vehicles.

The call for a hearing was prompted by problems and concerns expressed to the NHTSA about Chrysler’s administration, execution, and pace of vehicle recall repairs. The NHTSA stated it continues to receive consumer complaints involving part availability issues, lack of notification, difficulty in obtaining repair appointments, and being misinformed by dealers when inquiring about the recalls.

One of Chrysler’s most recent recalls that will be evaluated at the hearing is the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Durango vanity mirror recall. The agency has reportedly received at least eight reports involving fires emanating from the vanity mirror area on repaired vehicles. It is anticipated that Chryslers repair strategies will be evaluated at length during the hearing.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, stated in the DOT’s press release that all automakers are held to the same standard and are obligated to effectively repair safety defects in a timely manner when they are discovered and when automakers fail to perform their duties, the agency must step in and act. Foxx also said that with the auto industries movement for increased safety standards and technologies, the last thing the industry needs is failed protocols for repairing safety defects.

Chrysler Recall Problems

The hearing will evaluate 20 separate recalls where there is speculation and a multitude of evidence piling against the automaker for failing to remedy safety recalls.

Included in that list is a Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty rear fuel tank recall, which has been linked to at least 51 deaths due to the fuel tanks unprotected rear placement. The NHTSA reports at least 51 people have been killed in fiery crashes that included Chryslers 1993 to 1998 model years Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002 to 2007 model years Jeep Liberty that have pose a fire hazard when rear-ended.

Despite the reported deaths associated with the rear end accidents causing the vehicles gas tank to crack and engulf the vehicle in flames, Chrysler denied NHTSA claims that a safety defect existed and refused to recall the vehicles. Even after Chrysler agreed to recall 1.5 million of the potentially affected 2.6 million vehicles, four months passed before the recall was actually initiated and announced. Many of these vehicles are still not repaired due to Chrysler’s inability to provide necessary repair parts.

An additional recall concern is the nearly 1.6 million Chrysler vehicles that were impacted by an ignition interlock safety hazard similar to the General Motors recall that impacted 6 million vehicles. According to the NHTSA, certain Chrysler vehicles experienced defective ignition interlock systems that can get knocked out of the run position, putting the driver in an increased crash situation with no air bags. Chrysler’s delay in recalling the vehicles has raised questions and incident reports indicating the company’s awareness will be further evaluated.

Other recalls to be evaluated at the hearing include steering control failures, alternator failures, rear axle defects, and multiple air bag failure recalls all issued since 2013.

NHTSA’s Administrator Mark Rosekind stated the hearing will seek to answer the significant questions that have been raised as to whether Chrysler is meeting its obligations to protect drivers from safety defects.


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