The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has fined Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA) an additional $70 million due to failures in its accident and death reporting program, the Washington Post reported yesterday. The latest penalty brings to $140 million the amount the automaker has to pay to the safety agency for lapses in its recall and reporting programs.
Earlier this year, the automaker was fined $70 million due to its safety recalls. According to federal regulators, FCA was fined for the slow pace not only of its recall notifications but also due to the speed of the repair program. For example, at the time the penalty was announced, the agency said that recall program for Jeep fuel tanks – they were potential fire risks – had taken so long that the agency had to act. In the more than two years that the recall was open, fewer than one-third of the vehicles involved were repaired. More than 20 recall programs were investigated before the agency issued the first penalty in September.
Now, FCA has been fined again, this time under a 2000 law that requires automakers to provide timely reporting of all car-related injuries and deaths. The law was enacted to help determine safety recall trends. The second penalty was issued for FCA’s failure to report deaths and injuries since 2003. The automaker is the latest firm to be fined under the law. Early last year, as NHTSA began to take a more aggressive stance. The agency became aggressive under its then-new management. Mark Rosekind, current administrator, known for his active role as a manager at the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), brought that regulator view with him when he took over NHTSA. Since becoming administrator, the agency has taken a tougher line with the auto industry. Honda was the first to feel the sting of the newly energized agency last January when it was fined $70 million for its reporting program. The automaker was said to have failed to report at least 1,700 deaths and hundreds of injuries.
FCA said it would pay the penalty and vowed to change procedures to ensure proper reporting. Also, the automaker plans to hire an independent auditor to review its procedures to determine the level of their deficiencies. The audit will be made public, the Post reported. The automaker must also turn over all of the crash data it had failed to report within six months.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that the Department of Transportation (DOT) must move FCA and other automakers “toward a stronger, more proactive safety culture, and when they fall short, we will continue to exercise our enforcement authority to set them on the right path.”