NHTSA Expands Fiat Chrysler Recall Investigation

NHTSA Expands Fiat Chrysler Recall Investigation

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is stepping up a review of Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) recalls.

The agency will review 22 different FCA recall campaigns at a public hearing taking place on July 2. Evidence uncovered by the agency suggest that in many cases, FCA failed to meet legal requirements when fixing defects, making replacements parts available and notifying owners and regulators of an issue in a timely manner.

The unprecedented public hearing was announced in May, when NHTSA said it would review 20 different recall campaigns that cover 11 million vehicles. Now, NHTSA has added two more recalls to the list, both of which are from 2014.

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FCA said earlier this month that it is addressing all of the agency’s concerns, though NHTSA still doesn’t seem to be happy. “NHTSA has tentatively concluded that Fiat Chrysler has not remedied vehicles in a reasonable time and has not adequately remedied vehicles,” the agency said in a notice.

The hearing may result in a fine of up to $35 million for each recall campaign that is determined to not meet legal requirements. NHTSA could also order “the manufacturer to refund the purchase price of the defective or noncomplying vehicles, less a reasonable allowance for depreciation.”

As an example, in 2013, FCA recalled 278,000 SUVs and trucks over a pinion nut that can come loose. “Although this recall was initiated over 16 months ago, NHTSA has received, and continues to receive, numerous complaints from owners of these vehicles that they have been unable to have the recall repair performed because parts to perform the repair are not available,” NHTSA said.

“Twenty recalls are a problem — 10 million vehicles. There’s a pattern here of things we’re concerned about, ” said NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind. “And they weren’t just little things — they were big things including major safety issues related to fire, door latches that could open up when people were driving. It’s not just, ‘Oh, they were late on something.’ If they didn’t start, it was late, it means all that time people are at risk. And they told us something different.”

FCA acknowledges that it did not meet the 60-day owner notice requirement in five of the recall cases.