By Ryan Beene, Crain News Service
WASHINGTON (Aug. 3, 2015) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) July 24 consent decree with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) seeks to punish and remedy the auto maker's safety shortcomings while also addressing recall issues vexing the entire industry.
The agreement and its record-setting $105 million penalty stemmed from a NHTSA probe into violations that occurred in 23 FCA safety recalls since 2009. But the terms of the pact — especially its list of nearly 30 “performance obligations” — also are designed to spread and cement the lessons of recent safety crises involving General Motors Co., Takata Corp. and American Honda Motor Co.
“It doesn't have any teeth with other OEMs, but what it's trying to do is set up a model or a standard of behavior within the industry,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, D.C., and a vocal critic of FCA recently.
Central to the pact is a top-to-bottom revamp of FCA's current recall and defect practices, a process that will be overseen by an independent monitor who will report to NHTSA and will have broad authority to hire staff and investigate safety issues. That represents a deeper level of scrutiny than similar consent orders imposed on GM and American Honda in the last 18 months.