The company declined to comment on why Betts had parted ways with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Betts was one of few top managers at Chrysler to survive its 2009 bankruptcy. But his penchant for speaking his mind occasionally irked CEO Sergio Marchionne, said two company insiders.
For example, his comments this year about Chrysler’s negotiations with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over 2 million older Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys about an alleged fire hazard raised eyebrows at the company.
In 2013, Chrysler initially refused a request from NHTSA to recall the vehicles.
In June of this year, during industry records for recalls, Betts told Automotive News that recalls had become “a very politicized issue” that threatened to afflict consumers with a “boy who cried wolf syndrome.”
He said that if the NHTSA request had come in the current environment, “I think we would have rolled over and played dead in a second.” He said that in a politicized recall environment, “all sense goes out the window and you just try to stay out of the news.”
As it happened last year, the automaker reached a settlement with the agency by agreeing to install trailer hitch assemblies on 1993-98 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-07 Jeep Libertys that didn’t already have them. Chrysler began installing the hitches in August.
Betts, who was hired away from Nissan by former Chrysler Group CEO Bob Nardelli, was singled out for praise in 2011 by Consumer Reports for his “single focus on bringing Chrysler back into the field” in terms of quality.
But Chrysler’s quality scores in surveys ebbed and flowed in subsequent years, especially on newly launched vehicles. Jeep finished second to last in the 2014 J.D. Power U.S. Initial Quality Study, ahead of only the Fiat brand.
Betts warned earlier this year that the Jeep brand was likely to get hit hard on initial quality surveys because of initial problems tuning the nine-speed automatic transmission of the redesigned 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
Jake Fisher, head of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, said the automaker’s Fiat brand has been a problem for Chrysler.
“The Fiat models that we have data on — the 500 and the 500L — they’re really terrible when it comes to reliability. In fact, the Fiat 500L was the absolute worst vehicle in our survey of brand-new vehicles,” Fisher said.
The Fiat 500L is manufactured in Serbia.