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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/13/15

Does FCA stand for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or for Failing Customers Always?

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There is something despicable about any company which appears willing to risk customer safety and security by failing to repair or replace its products which have very dangerous defects. When it comes to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the successor to the old Chrysler Corporation, there seems to be a willingness to not only risk severe accidents to loyal customers who drive or ride in FCA vehicles -- but to totally fail to make those risks clear to those same loyal customers, by making them feel safe when indeed they are not. That is not only despicable, it is truly shameful!

CASE IN POINT: the particular recall (one of many) of our 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee which FCA has failed to fix in nearly a year, with no definite date set for replacing its defective Airbag System Occupant Safety Control, so that we are subject to "inadvertent airbag deployment, which while driving could distract the driver and cause a crash without warning." (per NHTSA Recall 15V-046, 1/27/2015 -- of which notice was not even sent to us until two months later!) Don't you just hate those "crashes without warning" which tend to maim or even kill those riding in your vehicle? Maybe, just maybe, FCA needs to get serious and really fix this problem before there are "crashes without notice." But, nearly a year later, FCA has no date certain for parts availability.

Speaking of FCA, its CEO Sergio Marchionne, and his coterie of charmers, really get around. FCA itself is based at the old Chrysler facilities in Auburn Hills, Michigan, but their parent firm, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., is based in the Netherlands -- with its executive offices in England. And Fiat itself, the parent of that parent, was based in Italy, the last time I looked. While we are speaking of CEO Marchionne, you might like to know that, per the FCA Group most recent Quarterly Report, his board awarded him some $40 million in FCA stock bonuses for his achievements for FCA. Looks like risking the lives and property of owners of some of their vehicles, like our Jeep and some Dodge trucks, is a pretty rewarding business at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles!

Of course, many other autos, trucks, vans, and similar vehicles have had their own share of safety issues -- Audi and Toyota with the unexplained sudden acceleration, Ford with their Explorer rollovers, General Motors with ignition switches which catch on fire, and so on. And these problems go back a long way; the old Ford Pinto was so notorious for catching on fire that Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live once explained that what Ford had really designed was not a car, but rather a "five passenger stove." And, many years ago, a woman whom I met in Bennington, Vermont had her Chrysler K-car airbag go off in her face, resulting in serious burns and scarring, and the loss of one eye. The list is endless. Still, most manufacturers learn from experience -- but that learning curve goes only very slowly at FCA.

To prove that FCA has managed to add a whole new dimension of abysmal performance when it comes to vital safety recalls, consider this recent report from the Detroit Free Press (July 14, 2015) which summarizes many recent actions which the NHTSA has taken against FCA due to the firm's neglect or abuse of vital safety rules & laws:

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will pay up to $105 million in fines and penalties to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, submit to oversight and buy back nearly half-a-million of the vehicles it has recalled, penalties issued for the auto company's lax attitude toward addressing safety issues in millions of its vehicles.

NHTSA said it was concerned about slow completion rates on recalls the automaker announced, slow or inadequate notifications to consumers, faulty approaches to fixing the safety issues and improper actions by dealers.

The penalty, the largest ever issued by the regulatory agency, reflects a tougher approach to automotive regulation in the wake of high-profile recalls last year by General Motors and airbag supplier Takata. It comes less than a month after NHTSA held a hearing to present evidence of Fiat Chrysler low recall completion rates for more than two dozen recall campaigns covering 11 million vehicles.

"Today's action holds Fiat Chrysler accountable for its past failures, pushes them to get unsafe vehicles repaired or off the roads and takes concrete steps to keep Americans safer going forward," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. "This civil penalty puts manufacturers on notice that the Department will act when they do not take their obligations to repair safety defects seriously."

Any owner of any FCA vehicle, which includes Chrysler and Dodge cars, Dodge trucks, and all types of Jeep vehicles, should immediately go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website, bring up the RECALLS section, and put in their vehicle VIN number, found on a plate on the dashboard or on the insurance card. Should you find any outstanding recalls on your own vehicle -- particularly safety recalls -- contact your regular or nearest FCA dealer at once and find out whether they are ready to carry out your recall by repairing or replacing the safety defect. If not, escalate the recall to the FCA recall section {} or call 1-800-992-1997. Demand to know exactly when your vehicle's safety defect will be repaired, and demand a "Care Number" which may help to get your particular case entered in the FCA system. Of course, that system is quite unfair to those who do not know to call.

Then: Contact (on-line) NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, your congressman and both senators, all automotive news services, and such media as your tv news investigative team, and tell them your full story. Further, demand from FCA that your safety-defective vehicle be repaired or replaced at once by FCA through your local dealer. FCA is now under NHTSA monitoring for compliance with all recalls, and for a change they may even do right by their loyal customers -- even if they have to be dragged "kicking and screaming" to make FCA serious about fixing defective vehicles. Maybe CEO Marchionne will be forced to earn that $40 million bonus after all! Or else, he can always move back to Italy or to the Netherlands.

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Author's Biography Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)

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