Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) was fined $70 million last month after earlier this year telling the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about its “significant under-reporting” of key warning information to auto regulators, including reports of deaths and injuries related to its vehicles. NHTSA said that the fines addressed FCA’s admission in September that it had found itself to have under-reported so-called early warning report data, which auto manufacturers are required to submit under the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act of 2000. NHTSA said that it needs such data in order to determine whether there are patterns that reveal defects that warrant recalls.
The fine was included as an amendment to the $105 million consent order that FCA had entered into with NHTSA in July, bringing the total amount of its penalties to $175 million. The July consent order was meant to resolve the agency’s investigation of the automaker’s handling of some 23 recalls covering more than 11 million vehicles. It was not clear whether that investigation was linked to FCA’s under-reporting of accident data. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind had this to say in a statement:
NHTSA’s enforcement actions in recent months have been designed not only to penalize previous actions, but to increase safety going forward. FCA 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.
FCA didn’t report the data, according to the consent order, because of “coding problems” in its early warning reporting system. The technical issues prevented it from learning when the system was updated with new information about accident-related issues, the consent order said. It said also that FCA hadn’t updated the system to include newly named U.S. brands including its Fiat and Ram models, according to the consent order. FCA’s flawed reporting of early warning data goes back to 2003, according to NHTSA. The agency has targeted four other automakers in the past 14 months for similar early warning data reporting problems, most notably American Honda Motor Co. Inc., which in January was also fined $70 million.
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