Fiat Chrysler vows to address NHTSA recall concerns
Washington — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV vowed to respond quickly to federal regulators’ questions about 20 recall campaigns covering 11 million vehicles since 2013, and said a July 2 public hearing is not necessary.
But in a Detroit News interview Thursday, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator Mark Rosekind said the agency has no plans to cancel the hearing that will look at the automaker’s safety record.
In a 19-page response to questions from NHTSA that was made public Thursday, Fiat Chrysler said it will address all of the agency’s concerns and said it was taking steps to move faster and boost recall completion rates. The automaker’s total submission was more than 5 million pages, the company said. Rosekind said the agency’s lawyers are still pouring through the records.
The company said it has boosted the number of product investigators by 65 percent since last year, created a biweekly executive campaign execution review team to oversee recalls and has plans for a “review of the recall execution process to identify and measure additional improvement opportunities.”
However, Rosekind said, “Twenty recalls are a problem — 10 million vehicles. There’s a pattern here of things we’re concerned about. And they weren’t just little things — they were big things including major safety issues related to fire, door latches that could open up when people were driving. It’s not just, ‘Oh, they were late on something.’ If they didn’t start, it was late, it means all that time people are at risk. And they told us something different.”
Fiat Chrysler acknowledged it did not meet the 60-day requirement for notifying owners of new recalls in five cases. But it said all but one were completed within four days of the deadline — and one within 12 days.
Fiat Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne said the company’s response is a sign of how seriously it takes NHTSA’s concerns. “We will not be satisfied until we firmly re-establish the trust our customers place in us,” Mayne said.
NHTSA announced the unprecedented July 2 hearing to allow Fiat Chrysler to explain its handling of auto safety recalls. The highly unusual action came after NHTSA raised sweeping concerns about Fiat Chrysler’s conduct in auto safety issues, saying it has failed to recall enough vehicles, send notices to owners fast enough or ensure that dealers repair enough vehicles.
Fiat Chrysler said in its letter that its approach “to review and identify with NHTSA input, and implement changes based on the learnings obviate the need for a hearing.”
NHTSA has called Fiat Chrysler’s recall completion rates for the recall 1.56 million older Jeep SUVs linked to more than 50 fires unacceptable.
Fiat Chrysler said for vehicles less than five years old, it has the second-best completion rate for recall repairs — behind only BMW AG — with 84 percent completed two years after callbacks began.
Last month, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the firm wanted to work more closely with NHTSA.
Fiat Chrysler submitted a lengthy submission in response to NHTSA’s 12-page list of questions that was due on Monday. Rosekind said the agency’s lawyers and investigators still are reviewing it. Rosekind said he has not spoken to Marchionne since NHTSA announced it would convene the hearing.
Rosekind praised Fiat Chrysler’s senior vice president for safety, Scott Kunselman. “He’s been very forthcoming and very engaged in this process — trying to do everything they can to provide us with information,” Rosekind said.