Chrysler fills safety officer position

Engineer Kunselman to supervise recalls, regulatory compliance

Kunselman: Purchasing boss since 2012

DETROIT -- The new safety and regulatory office that Chrysler Group created last week will have its own pool of engineers to ride herd on safety issues.

Scott Kunselman, 51, who had been Chrysler's head of purchasing since 2012, was tapped to lead the company's new Office of Vehicle Safety and Regulatory Compliance.

In the new role, Kunselman will report directly to CEO Sergio Marchionne and will supervise recalls and interactions with government regulators, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Kunselman has been an engineer with Chrysler since 1985 and was senior vice president for engineering before being tapped to succeed Dan Knott as purchasing boss in 2012. Chrysler named Tom Finelli, 44, who had been its director for global standardization, to succeed Kunselman as head of purchasing.

A Chrysler spokesman said the automaker's recall process will not change. Chrysler uses a committee of engineers and others to investigate reported quality and safety problems. After the investigation, committee members vote on whether to issue a formal recall.

So far this year, in what has been a record year for industry vehicle recalls, Chrysler has launched 17 recall campaigns involving about 3.2 million vehicles.

Chrysler joins General Motors in creating a high-profile position devoted to safety issues. In March, GM named Jeff Boyer as vice president of global vehicle safety as its recall crisis escalated.

In a related development last week, Toyota Motor Corp. confirmed that the U.S. Justice Department appointed former U.S. Attorney David Kelley to monitor Toyota's safety efforts.

The monitor position is part of a settlement in March, whereby Toyota paid a record $1.2 billion pen-alty and admitted it misled U.S. consumers in 2009 and 2010 about problems with its cars over unintended acceleration, Bloomberg reported.

GM's recalls have thrust safety practices into the spotlight, as federal regulators --themselves under scrutiny for failing to demand action from GM sooner -- and members of Congress try to keep defects from slipping through unnoticed.

Two U.S. senators in July introduced a bill that would make it a crime for corporate executives to conceal dangerous defects in their products.

Another bill, introduced this month by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., would allow penalties of up to life in prison for executives who delay recalls that result in fatalities.

Such fines are currently capped at $35 million, which is the amount GM agreed to pay in May.

But safety advocates say that's not enough to act as an effective deterrent.

NHTSA this month fined Hyundai Motor Co. $17.35 million for waiting too long to recall Genesis sedans with defective brakes. 

Nick Bunkley and Bloomberg contributed to this report.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett

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