Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) got a sharp reaction out of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for underreporting a large number of deaths, injuries and various other legal problems associated with their vehicles. The NHTSA is the U.S. agency that supervises safety procedures in car manufacturers and fines those who fail to act accordingly.
The Tread Act established that car manufacturers are obliged to report all faults and errors in their vehicles to the regulators. With over 33,000 deaths on the roads of the United States every year, the NHTSA uses the Act in order to discern which of these unfortunate incidents happen due to design flaws in the automotive industry.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles came to be after American car producer Chrysler went through a government-controlled bankruptcy and was bought by Italian firm Fiat. This is not the first time that FCA is in trouble with the regulator - in 2013, the automotive company was pressed to recall 2.7 million Jeep SUVs that the NHTSA claimed were vulnerable in case of rear-end impact.
Respecting the Tread Act means that car producers report monthly to the NHTSA all serious incidents in which their vehicles were involved. The safety administration said that Fiat Chrysler presented discrepancies in the warning data in July, when the investigation started.
"FCA [Fiat Chrysler] has informed NHTSA that in investigating that discrepancy, it has found significant underreported notices and claims of deaths, injuries and other information required as part of the early warning reporting system," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said.
"This represents a significant failure to meet a manufacturer's safety responsibilities," Rosekind added, referring to FCA's faulty system of data collecting and reporting.
Because of the sizeable number of reports, it makes sense that some of the injury cases are false alarms and have nothing to do with the qualities of the cars. At the hearing in July, the NHTSA noticed a suspicious low number of reports concerning Fiat Chrysler vehicles that had transmission issues at high speeds.
As a result, the NHTSA convinced Fiat Chrysler to enter a monitoring program for safety procedures. The company noted that, due to the "heightened scrutiny" following the notification, "deficiencies" in its reporting have been identified and remedied.
It is the second time this year when the authorities revealed unethical practices tied to the car industry in the United States. In January, Honda settled to pay $70 million in fines when it was determined that the Japanese producer hid more than 1,700 deaths and injuries from the NHTSA in the last 11 years.