NHTSA to issue sanctions for problems with recalled ‘Chrysler’ vehicles

Published 6:57 pm Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans on sanctioning FCA US (formerly Fiat-Chrysler) for failing to properly regulate more than 20 vehicle recalls, according to reports by the Associated Press.

A hearing was held on July 2 to determine whether FCA US failed to address safety defects and issue required notice on the recalls, which involved more than 11 million vehicles.

“It is not enough to identify defects. Manufacturers have to fix them,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said. “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.”

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In March 2012, Bainbridge resident Remington Cole Walden, 4, was killed in an accident involving a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, made by FCA US. Walden’s vehicle was struck from behind. An exposed gas tank in the Jeep’s rear exploded upon impact, setting the vehicle on fire. Walden was unable to escape.

In April, a jury in the Superior Court of Decatur County determined FCA US was 99 percent responsible for the death of Walden, resulting in his parents being awarded $150 million.

“We have taken a very critical look at our historical recall performance and identified additional opportunities to improve,” said Scott Kunselman, senior vice president for vehicle safety and regulatory compliance at FCA US. “We have also re-examined our interactions with the (NHTSA) and have been exploring ways to work more closely together. Our most recent effort to foster a more collaborative dialogue occurred last month when I and several other members of the senior management team of FCA US met with the Administrator (Rosekind) and his top staff to review some of the actions we had recently implemented.”

In recent months, NHTSA has identified problems and expressed concerns with the administration, execution and pace of vehicles being remedied across a number of Fiat Chrysler automobiles, a NHTSA press release reads. In addition, the agency has received consumer complaints involving parts availability issues, lack of notification, difficulty obtaining service appointments and misinformation from dealers.

According to the Associated Press, Rosekind said a number of option for agency action are “on the table,” including fines against FCA US and forcing the company to buy back their recalled vehicles.

In May, FCA US filed for a retrial, arguing the ruling violated the defendant’s right to due process.

Judge J. Kevin Chason will hear FCA’s “motion for new trial” on July 14 at 1:15 p.m. in Decatur County Superior Court in Bainbridge.