Fiat-Chrysler faces penalties over recalls

Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) faces action over the mishandling in the US of car recalls, according to the country’s top vehicle safety regulator.

Mark Rosekind of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criticised FCA’s recall of 11 million cars and its handling of fatal accidents.

He told a hearing in Washington of failures to inform owners of recalls, delays in repairs, and not doing work. The recalls cover Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler and Mitsubishi vehicles from model years dating back to 1993.

Much of the testimony in the hearing focused on a recall of 1.56 million older-model Jeeps with gas tanks mounted behind the rear axles. The tanks are vulnerable to being punctured in a rear crash. At least 75 people have died in fires involving the Jeeps, according to the NHTSA.

Mark said, ‘There will be action. What you’ve heard here is that there’s a pattern that’s been going on for some time.’ Details were not given on what action would be taken, although a combination of fines and orders to buy back or replace vehicles are likely.

The NHTSA has yet to decide whether to forward the case to the Justice Department for possible criminal action.

Scott Kunselman, FCA’s senior vice president for vehicle safety and regulatory compliance in North America said, ‘Recall execution is where we have fallen short. We have learned from our mistakes.’

FCA also came under fire yesterday for misleading US car safety regulators about recall notifications, in relation to faulty Takata airbags. ‘Fiat Chrysler failed to notify owners within the required 60 days in seven (of 23) recalls we are discussing here today,’ Joshua Neff, senior safety recall analyst at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told a public hearing on the automaker’s recall performance.