A previous blog reported on the recall of vehicles equipped with Takata air bags, which have inflators that can explode, particularly in older vehicles and those in humid climates. This blog discusses another recently reported safety problem with cars, this one at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
Safety regulators such as the NHTSA have been focusing more on vehicle safety in the wake of the massive fraud uncovered at Volkswagen, which deliberately provided incorrect data about emissions.
Federal law requires auto manufacturers such as FCA to collect and report information about defective product claims filed against them. It turns out that FCA has been underreporting the number of injury and death claims based on possible defects in its vehicles.
Last year, according to a story in the New York Times, around 60 million vehicles were recalled for safety reasons. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced that he will summon a number of automakers to the table to stress the importance of adhering to safety regulations and the possible consequences of not doing so.
The reporting system, known as the Early Warning System, was intended to help the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) more easily collect information about possibly defective vehicles. It was developed in 2000 after the epidemic of rollovers in Ford Explorers with defective Firestone tires.
Hiding vehicle defects is not unique to FCA. In January, Honda agreed to pay $70 million in fines because it failed to disclose more than 1,700 injuries and fatalities over 11 years. Until recently, that was the largest fine paid in the U.S. FCA may well face a fine as high as $105 million.
In addition, the safety of FCA vehicles will be in the hands of an independent monitor for three years.