Fiat Chrysler’s efforts to improve its safety record seem to take a step back for each step forward the automaker takes. Just as it came to an agreement with federal regulators on the choice for an independent monitor to oversee its moves, the company’s top safety offer resigns to take a job outside of the industry.
FCA US LLC agreed to let former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater to serve as an independent monitor of its handling of recalls and other safety-related matters as part of the Consent Order the company agreed to with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Slater’s appointment comes as Fiat Chrysler’s top safety officer, Scott Kunselman, senior vice president of safety and regulation, announced he will retire effective Nov. 30, to become chief operating officer at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.
Kunselman was named to the newly created safety position in August 2014 after NHTSA accused FCA of moving too slowly to hire a supplier and begin the production of trailer hitches designed to provide additional safety in older model Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty SUVs in rear-end crashes.
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NHTSA smacked Chrysler in July with a record $105-million penalty for violating laws in 23 recalls covering more than 11 million vehicles. The company admitted in the agreement with the agency it failed to notify customers in a timely manner, didn’t fix recalls properly and failed to report safety information to NHTSA.
As part of the consent agreement, FCA agreed to allow an independent monitor to review the company’s response to safety issues.
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FCA reviewed applications from several candidates and identified a group of finalists, each of whom was interviewed. Three monitor nominations, including Slater’s, were forwarded to NHTSA. This was done within the 60-day deadline prescribed in the Consent Order.
NHTSA, in consultation with FCA US, selected Slater, currently a partner in the Squire Patton Boggs law firm in Washington, D.C.
(To see how FCA plans to fix its broken safety program, Click Here.)
FCA also is under investigation for failing to report some deaths and injuries to the agency as required by law. NHTSA said its investigators found a discrepancy in reporting by Fiat Chrysler and notified the company in late July. FCA investigated and told the agency it found a lot of underreporting.