Blumenthal, Markey Statement on NHTSA-Fiat EWR Civil Penalty – 12/10/15

Senators Urge NHTSA to Write Rules to Increase Transparency and Public Reports of Early Warning Data

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) issued the following statement on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announcement today that it has imposed a civil penalty of $70 million on Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) for failing to comply with the Early Warning Reporting (EWR) system, which requires auto manufacturers to report safety data:

“Ignoring legal obligations to disclose vehicle crash death and injury reports not only violates the law, but puts lives in jeopardy. NHTSA’s Early Warning Reporting system is a critical tool in NHTSA’s toolbox to identify deadly safety defects. Although $70 million was likely the maximum fine NHTSA could levy, NHTSA’s civil penalty authority needs to be dramatically increased to effectively deter future violations and failures to report.

“Furthermore, as sponsors of the Early Warning Reporting System Improvement Act, we also believe NHTSA must immediately act to require automakers to automatically make more early warning documents publicly available so that consumers and independent safety experts can evaluate potential safety defects for themselves—and perhaps even help discover earlier when there are discrepancies in data or that manufacturers like Fiat Chrysler are failing to report death and injury reports.”

Last year, Markey and Blumenthal introduced the Early Warning Reporting System Improvement Act, legislation that would require NHTSA to make information it receives from auto manufacturers publicly available in a searchable, user-friendly format so that consumers and independent safety experts can personally evaluate potential safety defects. Later that year, the senators expressed concern in the efficacy of NHTSA’s regional recall system and EWR program after Honda Motor Company failed to report accidents caused by a now-confirmed airbag safety defect and urged NHTSA to ensure that all manufacturers were complying with the systems.  They additionally wrote to NHTSA urging NHTSA to promulgate rules to  increase early warning reporting requirements for automakers in order to make more potentially life-saving information available to NHTSA and the public.