The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to announce, as early as today, that Fiat Chrysler has agreed to a $70 million fine related to its failure to disclose vehicle crash death and injury reports.
The fine is the second large payout the automaker has agreed to in the last six months related to lax safety reporting and enforcement procedures. In July, FCA agreed to a $105 million settlement related to charges about it handled about two dozen recalls that impacted 11 million vehicles.
The latest fine, according to a Reuters report, is because FCA failed to disclose an unspecified number of reports that are required to be submitted to regulators under a 2000 law. Automakers are required to submit a variety of data involving vehicle crashes, deaths, warranty claims, lawsuits, among other information. FCA failed to meet the threshold for the rules. In September, NHTSA described the automaker’s omissions a “significant failure.”
NHTSA’s fine isn’t all that surprising as Mark Rosekind, the agency’s administrator, has been threatening to step up enforcement of the rules on automakers. However, he’s also been pleading for additional funding to help with the effort.
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Congress seems to have gotten the message, although it sent one back. In a new highway funding law, Congress agreed to give NHTSA more funding if it implements more reforms outlined by the Transportation Department inspector general.
Despite agreeing to the fine, FCA did have an explanation for the reporting issue. The maker said it had problems with its software for extracting information from a company database to submit to NHTSA, and as a result significantly under-reported death and injury claims.
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There is no indication that Fiat Chrysler intentionally hid the reports and no suggestion that NHTSA failed to discover safety defects because of the missing reports. Fiat Chrysler said in September “it takes this issue extremely seriously, and will continue to cooperate with NHTSA to resolve this matter and ensure these issues do not re-occur.”
Fiat Chrysler’s safety problems led not only to two separate fines, but also it agreed to allowing a safety monitor to supervise its efforts. In October, NHTSA named former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater to monitor the automaker.
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He is likely to review the company’s early warning reporting and Fiat Chrysler is required to conduct sweeping training and safety reforms and must hold regular meetings with NHTSA.