Fiat 500 Recalled for Rollaway Hazard
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has imposed an additional $70 million civil penalty on Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) because the automaker underreported death and injury data tied to its cars and trucks.
According to a statement on NHTSA’s website, the penalty follows FCA’s admission in September that it had failed, over a period of several years, to provide Early Warning Report data to NHTSA as required under the TREAD Act of 2000.
NHTSA officials said the early-warning reporting is not only a legal requirement, but also part of a manufacturer’s obligation to protect the safety of the traveling public.
FCA acknowledged that it can improve its response to NHTSA requests, but said it failed to report certain incidents due to coding issues in its early warning reporting system that failed to recognize when reportable information was received or updated.
FCA was fined $105 million back in July for the automakers poor track record with 23 recalls involving 11 million vehicles. The new penalties now bring the grand total to $175 million.
Understanding the TREAD Act
The TREAD Act adopted in 2000 requires automakers to electronically submit massive amounts of data involving car accidents, deaths, lawsuits, warranty claims and other information.
FCA is the fifth automaker in the past 14 months to be penalized by NHTSA for failure to meet the TREAD Act’s requirements.
The TREAD Act was drafted and passed in response to fatalities related to Ford Explorer SUVs fitted with Firestone tires.
The law has three major components:
- Its Early Warning requirement mandates that vehicle manufacturers report to the NHTSA when they conduct a safety recall or campaign in a foreign country.
- Automakers need to report information related to defects, deaths, injuries and other relevant data to comply with the Early Warning requirement.
- If an automaker intentionally violates the law and fails to report safety-related defects that have caused death or serious bodily injury, there is criminal liability.
Holding Automakers Responsible
As auto product liability attorneys who represent injured victims of defective automobiles, we are pleased to note that NHTSA has stepped up its enforcement efforts by penalizing automakers who fail to follow the law.
We have yet to see an automaker being held criminally liable for blatant violations of the TREAD Act.
However, the fact they have not been prosecuted doesn’t reduce the seriousness of the violations. When automakers fail to issue timely recalls or inform consumers about their dangerous vehicles, it’s the consumers who pay the ultimate price.
Vehicle manufacturers who violate the law and put profits over people should be held accountable.