Federal auto safety regulators are accusing automaker Fiat Chrysler of putting lives at risk by repeatedly failing to issue timely vehicle recalls and inform consumers about these dangerous defects.
According to a report in The New York Times, officials at the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) held a rare public hearing in which they sharply criticized Fiat Chrysler for failing to comply with federal laws in 23 separate recalls involving more than 11 million vehicles.
Regulators are vowing to seek stiff penalties against the automaker later this month when the time period for public comment ends on the matter.
Congress has criticized the regulatory agency, NHTSA, for its lax enforcement of safety laws.
We’ve seen a number of long-delayed recalls involving millions of General Motors vehicles for ignition defects and millions more vehicles that are equipped with defective Takata airbags that can explode and send shrapnel into the vehicle compartment.
A number of deaths and injuries have been linked to both these defects.
According tor regulators Fiat Chrysler not only failed to notify vehicle owners about recalls, but also delayed initiating repairs of defective models and neglected to notify regulators regarding changes in recall schedules.
The recalls under scrutiny date back to 2013 and cover a wide variety of models and parts including defective airbags, ignition switches and electrical wiring.
The agency has even linked these vehicle defects to deaths and injuries in several cases. The incidents include explosions and fires caused by rear-mounted fuel tanks in Jeep SUVs.
In one troubling case, the company recalled Jeep and Dodge SUVs that were catching fire due to a short circuit in sun visors. But, at least 10 consumers reported that the fires occurred after their vehicles had been recalled and repaired.
The company could be looking at civil penalties up to $35 million for each of the recalls in question.
Holding Automakers Accountable
As auto product liability attorneys who represent the rights of injured consumers and families of those killed by defective autos, we certainly hope federal regulators stay on top of this investigation and ensure that Chrysler is held accountable.
Regulators should do the same for all those automakers and part manufacturers who are failing to do their due diligence in terms of reporting serious vehicle safety defects and are putting millions of people in harm’s way.
Automakers who put profits over people should be held accountable.