DETROIT -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is speeding its regional recall of vehicles with defective Takata airbag inflators after federal safety regulators castigated the automaker over the pace.
In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Friday, Scott Kunselman, Chrysler’s vehicle safety vice president, said the automaker will begin notifying customers of affected vehicles on Dec. 8 -- 11 days earlier than planned but a week after NHTSA demanded that the notifications start.
Kunselman also indicated that Chrysler may expand the scope of its regional recall -- currently limited to high-humidity areas Florida, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico -- based on a corporate review scheduled for Tuesday.
At issue are Takata airbag inflators that Chrysler used in certain vehicles that can rupture in a crash, spraying shrapnel and causing potentially severe injuries.
NHTSA identifies the affected vehicles as:
- 2003-08 Dodge Ram pickup
- 2004-08 Dodge Durango
- 2007-08 Chrysler Aspen
- 2005-08 Chrysler 300
- 2005-08 Dodge Dakota pickups including rebadged 2006-07 Mitsubishi Raider pickups.
In a Nov. 25 letter to CEO Sergio Marchionne, NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman criticized Chrysler for the “slow pace” of its recall efforts. Friedman said Chrysler was slower than other automakers to identify potentially dangerous vehicles and slower to notify customers that their vehicles might pose a threat.
Friedman gave Chrysler until today to begin notifying customers after Takata informed Chrysler and other automakers that some replacement parts for defective inflators would be available then.
But in his response letter Friday, Kunselman said it has loaded the vehicle identification numbers of potentially affected vehicles into an online database for consumers to check. He said consumers also could call Chrysler to check their VIN.
Kunselman also said that “by November 28 our brand websites will also feature a specific link to information regarding the Takata airbag inflator.”
As of this morning, the websites include a link for owners to look up whether their vehicles are subject to recalls, but the links are not specifically for the inflator situation.