The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is deciding how to punish Fiat Chrysler for mishandling nearly two dozen recalls which involve 11 million vehicles.
Last week, the NHTSA held a public hearing into FCA’s handling of 23 recalls. Regulators accuse the automaker of failing to issue recalls in a timely manner, failing to notify the U.S. government, as well as vehicle owners about defects, and other mistakes.
According to the Detroit Free Press, NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind told reporters that he will take action against the automaker, possibly as soon as this month.
“What you heard here is there’s a pattern that’s been going on for some time, frankly,” Rosekind said.
One of the biggest investigations surrounds a recall of 1.5 million Jeep Grand Cherokees and Jeep Libertys for rear-end collision fire risks due to where the gas tank is located. FCA originally balked at doing a recall, but bowed to pressure by the NHTSA. The defect is linked to more than 50 deaths, including that of an 11th grader whose dad testified at last week’s hearing.
Todd Anderson said his son’s death was “not only was a horrific and painful death, it was preventable,” adding that he was notified later by email of the recall.
At the hearing, Scott Kunselman, FCA’s senior vice president for vehicle safety, said Fiat Chrysler acknowledged many of NHTSA’s concerns but has also made and continues to make changes to improve its recall performance. You can find Kunselman’s entire statement here.
“We have learned from our mistakes and missteps,” Kunselman said.
Those past mistakes and missteps could prove costly for the automaker. If the government decides the automaker hasn’t fulfilled its responsibilities to the public under federal law, it could order FCA to take stronger measures which could include requiring it to buy back vehicles from consumers. FCA also faces a fine of up to $35 million for any related series of violations. When you do the math, if each recall received the maximum fine, you get a total fine of more than $800 million, though that scenario is unprecedented and unlikely.
Stay tuned to find out what penalties the NHTSA imposes on the automaker.