Tag Archive | "NHTSA"

Fiat Chrysler Boss Says Tougher U.S. Safety Stance Will Raise Costs


U.S. vehicle safety regulators’ tougher posture toward automakers is a “new phase” in the government’s relations with the industry and will likely mean higher costs, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said Tuesday, reports Reuters.

“We’re beginning to live through a new phase of regulation in the United States,” Marchionne told reporters after the head of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criticized Fiat Chrysler’s (FCHA.MI) handling of recalls.

NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind on Monday said the agency was reviewing Fiat Chrysler’s handling of 20 recalls and criticized the automaker for failing to act aggressively enough to repair 10 million vehicles covered by the actions.

He said the agency could fine Fiat Chrysler up to $700 million and compel it to buy back vehicles. The agency also planned a public hearing in July to examine the company’s behavior.

Marchionne said FCA would “work with the agency in a cooperative way … and meet their requirement”.

But he said the regulator’s “different attitude” was “bound to increase the costs of execution of the car” because of additional measures automakers would have to take to comply with safety rules.

Marchionne and FCA’s U.S. arm, the former Chrysler Group, have tangled with regulators in recent years, notably over the scope of a recall to address concerns that fuel tanks in certain Jeeps posed a risk of rupturing and catching fire in rear-end collisions. Chrysler ultimately agreed to recall nearly 1.6 million Jeeps and install trailer hitches to protect the gas tanks.

“I just want clear rules,” Marchionne said. “This is the only thing that we, humbly, will request … We can’t change the rules after the event.”

Marchionne also said that NHTSA may have unrealistic expectations about how many vehicle owners would bring cars back to dealers to get recall-related repairs.

“The willingness of us to repair 100 percent is on the table. But the likelihood of us getting 75 percent of the cars in that period of time even if we work our buns off is limited,” he said.

He was referring to a NHTSA target for automakers to repair 75 percent of the vehicles covered by a recall within 18 months.

FCA has not made a decision on where to build its next-generation Jeep Wrangler, Marchionne said. The model is currently built in Toledo, Ohio.

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U.S. Investigating Nissan Versa for Safety Defect


DETROIT, Mich. — U.S. regulators are investigating the Nissan Versa subcompact after getting reports that a coil spring in the front suspension can fracture and cut the tires, reports The Detroit News

The investigation involves approximately 130,000 Versas from the 2008 through 2010 model years.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has gotten 93 complaints from drivers about the issue and one report of a crash. In one case, the coil spring allegedly broke and sliced through a tire while the car was traveling 65 miles per hour.

The agency says it has received no reports of deaths or injuries related to the issue.

Nissan says it’s cooperating with the investigation. NHTSA investigations can lead to vehicle recalls.

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Marchionne Says He Doesn’t Plan to Testify at July Hearing


Sergio Marchionne, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s chief executive officer, said he doesn’t intend to speak at the hearing the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration set for July 2, reports Bloomberg Business.

“We have a person who is responsible for regulatory compliance,” he said on the sidelines of an event Tuesday evening in Detroit. “He’s much better briefed than I am.”

NHTSA on Monday scheduled a rare public hearing into how Fiat Chrysler is handling 20 recalls, covering about 10 million vehicles. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said it was a pattern of potential violations, rather than a specific recall, that brought the unusual action.

NHTSA has become more aggressive after being criticized by Congress for failing to be more active before last year’s revelation that about 2.6 million General Motors Co. cars had a known ignition-switch defect that went unrecalled for years. Regarding Fiat Chrysler, the agency said it has had complaints from consumers about the absence of recall notifications, the lack of parts when people schedule repairs and “misinformation from dealers.”

Marchionne said Fiat Chrysler has tried to comply with the recalls but struggles, like all automakers, to get vehicle owners to care.

“We have worked as hard as we could to try and make the recalls work,” he said. “One of the things I cannot do is somehow force customers to come in and bring their cars. I just can’t. And the repair rates of some of these recalls are either at or above industry average.”

The auto industry, he said, will adapt to the new regulatory environment.

New Phase 

“We’re entering a new phase of regulatory oversight,” he said. “We need to work with the agency to determine the proper level of cooperation. The real issue is that the process of adjusting to this new regulatory environment is going to be painful. We’re not used to this.”

Fiat Chrysler shares rose 0.1 percent to $15.62 at 9:38 a.m. New York time. They gained 35 percent this year through yesterday.

FCA US, the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based unit of London-based Fiat Chrysler, owns the Chrysler and Jeep brands. It was given until June 1 to turn over documents about its recall progress and could face fines of $7,000 a day for failing to cooperate with NHTSA’s special order.

“The average completion rate for FCA US LLC recalls exceeds the industry average and all FCA US campaigns are conducted in consultation with NHTSA,” the automaker said Monday in an e-mailed statement. “The company will cooperate fully.”

Rosekind declined to give an industry average after the FCA statement. He said earlier he was unhappy with the completion rate of recall repairs for a fuel tank defect on some Jeeps.

NHTSA rarely schedules public hearings on recalls. The agency usually negotiates with automakers behind the scenes over the scope of a recall, timing and potential remedies. NHTSA’s last such hearing on a recall was in 2012, for a single fix by Wildfire Motors, a small motorcycle importer.

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Democrats Reintroduce Auto Safety Reform Bill


Washington — A group of House Democrats is reintroducing sweeping auto safety reform legislation a year after General Motors Co. recalled 2.6 million vehicles now linked to at least 57 deaths, reported The Detroit News.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., is reintroducing a measure that would dramatically hike the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s auto safety budget by at least $100 million by 2017 by imposing a $3 fee on all new car sales that would rise to $9 by 2018. The bill is backed by Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and at least four other Democrats, her office said.

Despite withering criticism of NHTSA and congressional hearings into GM’s delayed recall, as well another round of hearings into millions of defective Takata air bags, the prospects for sweeping auto safety reform legislation are hazy. Many auto industry officials think it is unlikely major reforms are approved. In 2010, after harsh criticism of NHTSA after Toyota Motor Corp. recalled millions of vehicles, Congress considered but never voted on major auto safety legislation.

The bill would require auto dealers to repair recalled used cars before selling them and require disclosure of recalls and the status to prospective buyers. It would also give NHTSA sweeping new authority to get unsafe vehicles off the road immediately for “any condition that substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death if not remedied immediately.”

The bill would require NHTSA to create new regulations, including new standards for passenger motor vehicles to reduce the number of pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities. NHTSA would also have to research the development of safety standards to improve the crash worthiness and survivability for back-seat passengers.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade group representing major automakers, didn’t immediately comment.

The measure would bar automakers from conducting regional recalls limited to high humidity areas or places where road salt is used.

The bill requires that a remedy for a defective vehicle be provided without charge, regardless of when the motor vehicle or replacement equipment was purchased. Under the current law, remedies are not required without charge for vehicles or equipment purchased more than 10 years before a recall.

On Thursday, a Senate panel approved a bill to allow for additional compensation for auto sector whistleblowers, but Republicans have shown no interest in taking up broader auto safety legislation. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has held hearings and met with automakers and others, but hasn’t proposed any reforms.

The Democrats’ bill would eliminate the $35 million cap on fines for most delayed auto safety recalls. The Obama administration has called for hiking it to $300 million per delay.

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Feds Fine Takata $14,000 Daily for Not Cooperating


The federal government has levied a $14,000 per day fine against air bag manufacturer Takata Corp. for failing to cooperate with a safety investigation over causes for its air bag inflators rupturing, a defect that has resulted in at least four deaths in the U.S, reported Detroit Free Press.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the fine Friday morning at a ceremony in Richmond, Va., where he and Mark Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, called on Congress to pass legislation requiring rental car companies and used car dealers to fix safety defects before renting or selling vehicles subject to a recall.

The fine represent the government’s latest tactic in a clash that has been going on since 2008. The recall has expanded to cover about 17 million vehicles in the U.S., of which automakers have replaced the air bags in nearly 2 million, said NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge.

“Safety is a shared responsibility and Takata’s failure to fully cooperate with our investigation is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Foxx. “For each day that Takata fails to fully cooperate with our demands, we will hit them with another fine.”

Takata said it was “surprised and disappointed” by Foxx’s action and took issue with the contention the air bag supplier had not been fully cooperative.

In December, NHTSA issued two special orders to Takata requiring the company to provide documentation and other material relating to the agency’s ongoing investigation. The agency contends Takata has not fully complied with those orders.

NHTSA has said inflators in Takata bags may rupture and explode, particularly in very humid climates, spreading metal shards that have been tied to at least five deaths in the U.S. For passenger-side air bags the recall is limited to Florida, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Puerto Rico.

Five automakers with driver-side Takata bags that could be at risk have expanded their recalls nationwide.

Takata said it provided NHTSA with almost 2.5 million pages of documents and has been communicating regularly with the agency. Neither Takata, the 10 automakers nor NHTSA have discovered the root cause of the malfunction.

“We continue to keep NHTSA closely informed on the extensive testing efforts we have undertaken,” the company’s statement said. “That work has, so far, supported our initial view that age and sustained exposure to heat and humidity is a common factor in the small number of inflators that have malfunctioned.”

After reports of at least one death and other injuries in non-humid regions, NHTSA in December expanded the recall nationwide for driver-side bags, but Takata has resisted. The Japanese-based supplier is conducting its own investigation led by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner.

Separately, the 10 automakers who installed Takata bags have come together to hire an independent expert to investigate the cause of the malfunction. Five automakers have expanded their recalls to the entire country.

Consumers can determine if the vehicle they plan to rent or buy has an open recall that needs to be addressed by using NHTSA’s free Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) look-up tool https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin.

NHTSA’s Safercar mobile app on both provides users free access to key safety information, including recalls and safety performance.

In addition to imposing the fine, Foxx urged Congress to pass the Grow America Act which would extend to rental cars and used cars the existing requirement that all outstanding recalls be repaired before they are sold.

The most recent fatality related to Takata’s air bags occurred Jan. 18 in Spring, Texas, near Houston. It involved a 2002 Honda Accord, which was purchased used while under recall, but neither the previous owner nor the dealer had the air bag replaced.

The Harris County medical examiner’s preliminary report said the driver, Carlos Solis,died of blunt force injuries to the neck.

The Grow America Act would fund infrastructure projects needed to promote economic growth, and enhance safety and efficiency. It also seeks to boost NHTSA’s budget to $908 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, including increasing the agency’s defect investigation budget to $31.3 million – approximately triple the current level. It also would raise the maximum penalty NHTSA could levy for failure to report safety defects from $35 million to $300 million.

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Feds Fine Honda $70 Million for Safety Reporting Violations


DETROIT – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Thursday Honda Motor Co. has agreed to pay $70 million for failing to report deaths, injuries and certain warranty claims to the federal government, reported MLive.

NHTSA said the Japanese automaker was in violation of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act. Signed into law in 2000, the TREAD Act in part requires auto companies to report any defects, death or injuries related to their products.

The fine includes two separate, $35 million civil penalties. NHTSA said an investigation of the Japanese automaker found that it failed to submit early warning reports, which identify potential safety issues. The federal regulator said Honda did not report 1,729 death and injury claims between 2003 and 2013.

In addition to the fines, NHTSA is requiring Honda to develop written procedures for complying with requirements for early warning reports, as well as to train its relevant personnel on this front on an annual basis.

In 2014, NHTSA levied a record $126 million in civil penalties. It was more than the agency had collected over the course of its entire, 43-year history.

“Honda and all of the automakers have a safety responsibility they must live up to – no excuses,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Last year alone, we issued more fines than in NHTSA’s entire history. These fines reflect the tough stance we will take against those who violate the law and fail to do their part in the mission to keep Americans safe on the road.”

NHTSA said its total fines in 2014 break down as follows:

  • Honda, $70,000,000, for failing to both submit early warning reports and warranty claims.
  • Gwinnett Place Nissan, $110,000, for failing to perform recall remedy in new motor vehicles prior to sale and delivery.
  • Ferrari S.p.A. and Ferrari North America, Inc, $3,500,000, for failing to submit early warning reports.
  • Chapman Chevrolet LLC, $50,000, for failing to perform recall remedy in new motor vehicles prior to sale and delivery.
  • Hyundai Motor America, $17,350,000, for the failure to issue a recall in a timely manner.
  • General Motors Company, $35,000,000, for the failure to issue a recall in a timely manner.
  • General Motors Company, $441,000, for failing to fully respond to Special Order by due date.
  • Prevost, a division of Volvo Group Canada, Inc; Volvo Industrial de Mexico S.A. de C.V.; and Prevost Car (US) Inc., $250,000, the second of six annual installments of a total of $1.5 million in civil penalties, for untimely recalls and untimely submission of early warning reports, and technical service bulletins (TSBs).
  • Southern Honda Powersports (a/k/a Big Red Powersports LLC), $25,000, the second of five annual installments of a total of $125, 000 in civil penalties, for the sale of unrepaired, recalled vehicles.

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