Fiat Chrysler’s run-ins with federal safety regulators over the maker’s perceived dragging of its heels when it comes to completing recall repairs has resulted in the automaker being forced to participate in a hearing on July 2 about the problems.
Officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are planning to interview FCA executives about what they perceive as a lack of full cooperation from the automaker.
“NHTSA has concerns about slow completion rates, slow or inadequate notifications to consumers, faulty remedies, improper actions by dealers and more,” said Mark Rosekind, NHTSA administrator, during a press conference today.
“Each of these defects presents an unreasonable risk to safety and in each case there is reason to question whether Fiat Chrysler has met its legal obligations.”
FCA’s been subjected to plenty of public scrutiny over its handling of NHTSA’s demand that it 2.7 million Jeeps, which it initially refused to do, in 2013 due to problems with the location of the fuel tanks.
The agency has dozens of complaints about tanks claiming they were prone to catching on fire in rear-end collisions. The automaker ultimately acquiesced, agreeing to recall 1.6 million 1993-98 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-07 Libertys and solving the problem by installing trailer hitches on the vehicles, which provided additional protection for the gas tanks.
(FCA appealing $150 million Jeep verdict. For more, Click Here.)
Rosekind noted that the fuel tank problem is just one of 20 recalls the agency is concerned about – impacting more than 10 million vehicles. If the FCA is found to be in violation U.S. auto safety laws, NHTSA could levy a variety of punishments ranging from simply forcing the maker to fix the problems to buying back the affected vehicles.
“In each of those 20 recalls, NHTSA has significant concerns about Fiat Chrysler’s performance,” Rosekind said. Being called in for this kind of hearing is uncommon with the last time being about three years ago.
(Click Here for details about the slow pace of Jeep recall repairs.)
NHTSA also demanded that the automaker provide a variety of documents related to the 20 recalls in question. The automaker, which has consistently defended its products and response, did the same in a statement today, saying it would comply with the requests and pointing out a poignant statistic.
“The average completion rate for recalls exceeds the industry average and all FCA US campaigns are conducted in consultation with NHTSA,” the company said in a statement.
The agency’s complaint with the Jeep fuel tank recall is that they believe the automaker is taking too long to complete the recommended fix. Last November, NHTSA officials criticized the automaker because just 3% of the affected Jeeps had been fixed. Through the end of the first quarter of this year, just 21% of the vehicles had been repaired.
(To see more about FCA looking for a merger partner, Click Here.)
Rosekind stressed that NHTSA was comfortable with the recommended repair, but the rate of completion was the issue, adding that the agency does not plan to reopen its investigation into Jeep SUVs with rear-mounted fuel tanks after suggesting last month it was under consideration.