WASHINGTON — Despite overhauling its safety and recall operations since September, Fiat Chrysler is almost certain to face enforcement actions by federal regulators over alleged violations of auto safety laws.
After a public hearing last week on the company’s safety record, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Mark Rosekind said he expected the agency to take action against FCA within “days” after the agency’s review closes July 17.
The agency has accused FCA of violating federal laws in the way it handled 23 recalls since 2013, affecting more than 11 million vehicles. Rosekind said he would not “prejudge” what actions NHTSA might take but suggested that some type of enforcement action is inevitable. “The information is so clear,” he said.
Options could include fines or cooperative steps such as consent orders that would put FCA under stricter federal oversight, Rosekind said.
During the hearing, agency officials detailed a number of alleged violations by FCA, calling it a laggard among its peers. “Fiat Chrysler takes a long time to produce the parts needed to get vehicles fixed,” said Scott Yon, an official in
NHTSA’s defect investigation office. “Their dealers have difficulty getting parts for recalls. Their customers have trouble getting recall repairs done. Fiat Chrysler’s recall remedies sometimes fail to remedy the defects they are supposed to fix.”
Scott Kunselman, FCA’s safety chief, didn’t respond directly to
NHTSA’s specific allegations but conceded at the hearing that the company “could have done better” in the 23 recalls under federal scrutiny.
He said FCA has “fundamentally reorganized” its safety and compliance operations since September 2014. For example, he said, he reports directly to FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne; in the past, safety and regulatory compliance was contained within the product development arm.
Among other initiatives, FCA will launch six smartphone apps that can send recall alerts to customers and has launched digital tools at dealerships to aid recall outreach.
Kunselman said: “We have learned from our mistakes and missteps and we will continue to revise our processes.”