Chrysler Failed to Adequately Address Safety Problems: NHTSA Report

Federal regulators indicate Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) appears to have failed to adequately recall, repair and take other federally mandated steps in response to safety problems with different automobiles, according to tentative conclusions issued in advance of public hearings scheduled for next month.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will hold public hearings on July 2, to evaluate problems with Chysler recall efforts. The agency has reportedly added two more recall campaigns to the list of those that will be reviewed, bringing the total to 22 recalls impacting more than 11 million vehicles.

Strong language used in an official draft hearing notice to be posted on the Federal Register states that the NHTSA has “tentatively concluded” that Fiat Chrysler did not adequately recall, repair, and follow federally mandated updates required by the agency, according to a report by Reuters News Service.

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Just two weeks before Fiat Chrysler representatives will have to explain their actions to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the NHTSA has now introduced roughly one million more recalled vehicles into the hearing schedule. 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.

The automaker could face upward of $770 million in fines and be required to buy back or replace vehicles if the U.S. DOT officials find that Fiat Chrylser failed its legal obligations.

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.

The recall campaigns to be evaluated include notification and remedy failures for recalled vehicles dating back to 1993 including Dodge Ram pickups, and Chrysler Town and Country minivans. According to the NHTSA, it is apparent that FCA did not notify owners for over five months about the potentially rupturing Takata airbag inflators that have killed at least seven people and injured over 100 in Chrysler and various other automaker vehicles.

The NHTSA has targeted a series of three recalls announced in 2013 involving over a million Dodge Ram trucks with defective tie rods that majority remain unrepaired due to the lack of replacement parts. The NHTSA states that 18 months later not even half of the impacted vehicles have been repaired.

One of the most nationally recognized recalls to be evaluated during the trial will be the 1.5 million Jeep Liberty and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV’s recalled in June 2013. The NHTSA reports at least 51 people have been killed in fiery crashes when the unprotected gas tanks on the vehicles were punctured when the vehicles were 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.

NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind, added that twenty recalls may have contained problems and some of the recalls being evaluated pose serious risk of injury and death from fires, door latches unexpectedly opening, and rupturing airbags. To date, FCA has acknowledged that it did not meet the 60-day owner notice requirement in five of the 22 recall campaigns.


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