he National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will soon punish car maker Fiat Chrysler for failing to follow recall laws. According to the NHTSA, the car maker failed to follow the law in 23 recalls which involved 11 million vehicles. The car company's recall performance was recently evaluated by the NHTSA, with some of the recalls dating back to 2013. Additional allegations against the car company may be possible.
The NHTSA found that the company engaged in a number of failures to notify customers of recalls, delays making and distributing repair parts for the recalls and, in some circumstances, failed to develop repairs to rectify the recall concerns. The administrator of the NHTSA noted, following a recent two-hour public hearing concerning the issues, that there was a clear pattern and that the evidence against the company was straightforward.
Although specific punishments were not named, the NHTSA is considering all options, which can include fines and requiring the car maker to buy back vehicles subject to the recall. The NHTSA can fine automakers up to $35 million per infraction, so the violations related to 23 recalls could be costly for the car maker. The car company did not dispute the allegations against it and announced plans to follow best practices in the industry concerning safety moving forward.
The NHTSA administrator noted that the car company needed to follow the law and to meet deadlines to notify owners of recalls and when distributing repair parts for recalls. The 23 recalls included problems such as: the rear-mounted gas tanks; air bags that could explode with too great a force and send shrapnel towards victims; and ignition switches that may abruptly shut off, causing vehicles to stall.
The NHTSA administrator added that when car makers fail to follow recall laws, they place consumers at risk. Much of the testimony at the hearing focused on 1.56 million older model Jeeps which, due to the placement of the gas tanks, are at risk of being punctured in an accident. The NHTSA reports that at least 75 victims have died in fires involving Jeeps. One man, who lost his 17-year-old son in a Jeep accident when it was rear-ended and exploded, noted that the accident occurred five months after the recall and he did not learn of the recall until receiving a letter from the car maker approximately another six to seven months after the accident. Laws protecting consumers against automotive defects are important, as are legal options that may be available to victims who have suffered as a result of a defective automobile and its consequences.