A federal investigation has been launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of Fiat Chrysler’s handling of the 121K 2013 Dodge Dart recall. A total of 18 complaints were received by NHTSA before it decided upon an investigation into the Dart’s braking problems.
Recorded complaints state the vehicle’s brake pedal may suddenly become difficult to depress, increasing the expected braking distance significantly for Dodge Dart drivers. Some drivers even claim to hear a “pop noise or an air hissing noise when applying the brake pedal, followed by a hard pedal feel and reduced brake effectiveness.” In order to fix the brakes, Fiat Chrysler began replacing the 2013 Dodge Dart’s brake booster and master cylinder.
According to an exclusive report by Reuters, Fiat Chrysler has run into some trouble with federal safety regulators that “tentatively concluded” the automaker has not properly addressed safety issues to consumers or federal safety officials, nor remedied problems in a timely manner.
Originally to be published in the Federal Register, the NHTSA used the “most strong worded language to date” when describing its disapproval of Fiat Chrysler’s handling of the 22 recalls for which the company is responsible. If regulators find that the automaker continues to fail in its legally required recall duties, Fiat Chrysler may be on the hook for fines of more than $700 million and even be required to buy back or replace its recalled vehicles.
The total number of vehicles currently recalled by Fiat Chrysler surpasses more than 11 million, including the nearly 1.5 million recalled Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee SUVs that may ignite in a rear-end collision.
At the end of April, NHTSA recorded that Fiat Chrysler had only fixed about 21 percent, or 320,000, of the total vehicles in need of recall repairs. NHTSA also found that the automaker failed to alert drivers of vehicle issues in two previously unreported cases, including one case involving dangerous airbag inflators where Fiat Chrysler “did not notify owners for over five months.”
In response to the mounting complaints against the automaker, Fiat Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne said the company is “fully cooperating” with NHTSA.