Federal officials on Thursday confirmed $70 million in new fines for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV stemming from an investigation into the automaker’s recall efforts.
The penalty follows automaker’s admission in September that it had failed, over several years, to provide “Early Warning Report” data to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as required by the TREAD Act of 2000.
“Accurate, early-warning reporting is a legal requirement, and it’s also part of a manufacturer’s obligation to protect the safety of the traveling public,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. “We need FCA and other automakers to move toward a stronger, more proactive safety culture, and when they fall short, we will continue to exercise our enforcement authority to set them on the right path.”
The penalty is in addition to a $105 million fine by NHTSA from an investigation and July 24 consent order earlier this year for the automaker’s handling of two dozen safety recalls covering 11 million vehicles.
The civil penalties from that investigation now total $175 million, with $140 million due in cash and another $35 million in deferred penalties that will come due if the company fails to meet its obligations under the consent order.
The reporting failures, the feds say, stem from problems in Fiat Chrysler’s electronic system for monitoring and reporting safety data, including improper coding and failure to account for changes in brand names.
In a statement on Thursday, the automaker’s North American-based operations said it “accepts these penalties and is revising its processes to ensure regulatory compliance. However, FCA US is confident that it identified and addressed all issues that arose during the relevant time period, using alternate data sources.”
In addition to the new civil penalty, Fiat Chrysler must report on the results of its third-party audit and provide missing early-warning data. Also, the independent monitor appointed under the July 24 consent order will monitor the company’s early warning compliance.
“NHTSA’s enforcement actions in recent months have been designed not only to penalize previous actions, but to increase safety going forward,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind in a statement.
Rosekind added that Fiat Chrysler “has expressed a desire to use this situation as a stepping stone to a stronger, more proactive safety posture, and NHTSA is ready to work with FCA and the industry as a whole to improve safety.”
The $70 million fine is in line with what Honda Motor Co. agreed to pay a $70 million fine for failing to disclose more than 1,700 reports of deaths, injuries and other “early warning” information to NHTSA in January.
NHTSA uses early warning data to identify and investigate potential defects that may require a safety recall. It includes reports of deaths and injuries, warranty claims, consumer complaints and field reports of safety issues.
Fiat Chrysler is the latest vehicle manufacturer in the past 14 months that NHTSA has penalized for failure to meet early warning reporting requirements (some fines include other violations such as untimely recalls). They include:
■Forest River: $35 million ($5 million cash, $30 million deferred for EWR violations and untimely recalls)
■Spartan Motors: $9 million ($1 million cash, $3 million in performance requirements, $5 million deferred for EWR violations and untimely recalls)
■Honda: $70 million for EWR violations
■Ferrari: $3.5 million for EWR violations
■Triumph: $2.9 million ($1.4 million cash, $500,000 in performance requirements for EWR violations and late response to NHTSA special order)