by Tom Krisher
June 4, 2015
Fiat Chrysler has admitted that it missed legal deadlines to notify customers in five safety recalls, a pattern that could bring a fine from U.S. safety regulators.
But the company, in documents posted Thursday, said it’s taking steps to improve recall completion and notification rates and shouldn’t be subjected to a July 2 public hearing on its safety performance scheduled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Last month, the agency, clearly frustrated, scheduled the rare hearing to air problems with 20 different Fiat Chrysler recalls covering 11 million vehicles. The agency said it has complaints from customers that they weren’t notified of recalls or that dealers lacked parts to make the fixes.
The missed deadlines were revealed in Fiat Chrysler’s response to questions from the agency as the company seeks to avoid what could be an embarrassing public airing of its safety problems.
Automakers must notify customers within 60 days after telling the government about a recall. Four of the five Fiat Chrysler misses were four days or less, but one was 12 days late. Company spokesman Eric Mayne said owners in that case had already been notified, and the missed deadline happened when the company decided to change the recall repair.
But Clarence Ditlow, head of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, said the agency should slap the company with a big fine. “It’s clearly a pattern, which why NHTSA is holding a public hearing,” he said. “NHTSA should fine Chrysler five times for missing deadlines in each of the five recalls because people can die while Chrysler delays.”