NHTSA Probing Fiat Chrysler’s Response To At Least 20 Safety Recalls, Schedules July 2 Public Hearing

Federal regulators are once again expressing their displeasure with Fiat Chrysler’s slow-moving response to fixing millions of Jeeps that can explode following low-speed rear-end collisions. Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it plans to take the car manufacturer to task not only for its leisurely pace on the Jeep recalls, but for nearly 20 other safety recalls.

The Wall Street Journal reports that regulators plan to hold a July 2 public hearing to determine whether Fiat Chrysler failed to address safety defects and issue required notices on 20 recalls covering more than 10 million vehicles.

NHTSA also issued a special order on Monday requiring executives of Fiat Chrysler to provide documents and other information about the company’s recall performance to the agency by June 1.

The agency’s latest probe into the company includes a variety of recalls dating back as far as 1993 for issues such as ignition switches that can move, cutting off power to safety systems and assembly problems that can harm power steering capabilities.

The July hearing will involve testimony from NHTSA staff, representatives from the automaker and the public, Reuters reports.

“Significant questions have been raised as to whether this company is meeting its obligations to protect the drivers from safety defects, and today we are launching a process to ensure that those obligations are met,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said.

If evidence presented at the hearing shows Fiat Chrysler failed to meet recall obligations laid out by federal law, regulators say they could require the automaker to repurchase or replace affected vehicles or take other action.

In recent months, the car manufacturer has faced increased scrutiny from federal regulators related to its slow-pace in fixing nearly 1.5 million model year 1993 to 2007 Jeeps with the potential to explode in low-impact rear-end crashes.

Last month, Rosekind said the pace of remedying the issue was getting worse.

“The numbers came out, they’re horribly low,” he said. “Those translate into lives at risk, and more lives have been lost and people hurt. That’s unacceptable.”

Last summer, Chrysler reported that only about 8.6% of the 1.56 million Jeeps involved in the initial recall had been fixed. Earlier this month the manufacturer said progress has increased, with nearly 25% of the recalled Jeeps now fixed.

But that’s still not enough progress for regulators, especially when considering the average completion rate for a vehicle recall after a year an a half is 75%.

The agency and Chrysler have been involved in a bit of back-and-forth with regard to more than one million Jeep vehicles with rear-mounted fuel tanks that sit too low and put the vehicle at risk of catching fire if involved in a rear-end explosion.

For nearly three years, Chrysler has maintained that the millions of Jeeps do not have a safety defect, despite safety documents showing the issue has resulted in nearly 75 deaths.

During the summer of 2013, the car manufacturer and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agreed to a remedy for the issue that involved equipping vehicles with a trailer hitch that could reduce the risk of fires.

Officials with Chrysler have said dealers would inspect the recalled Jeeps to determine if there was a need to install the trailer hitch assemblies.

Regulators Probing Fiat Chrysler Recall Performance [The Wall Street Journal]
UPDATE 1-NHTSA announces July hearing on Fiat Chrysler recalls [Reuters]

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