A public whipping is indeed what Fiat Chrysler is getting at a public hearing in Washington D.C. today, where officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration accused the automaker of violating safety laws and misleading them about recalls.

The Detroit News’ David Shepardson reports that NHTSA claims Fiat Chrysler has “sweeping problems” with recalls in just about every way: notifying owners, ensuring replacement parts are available, recalling vehicles in a timely fashion, and actually fixing the problems once the cars are recalled. Ouch.

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Sadly, the public hearing isn’t being livestreamed, so we’re relegated to following it on Twitter and dispatches from reporters who are there. Here’s what the News said:

NHTSA’s Scott Yon, chief of the vehicle integrity, said other automakers don’t act like Fiat Chrysler. The company takes a long time to produce repair parts, owners have trouble getting repairs and the remedies sometime don’t work. “Except in extraordinary circumstances, no owner of a car or truck with a safety defect should have to wait for years to get the remedy repair completed,” Yon said at the hearing.

Emphasis mine, because ouch again. Also:

The newest recall is Fiat Chrysler’s May recall of 1,771 4500 and 5500 Ram trucks to correct a defect that allows the vehicle to exceed the speed rating of its tires. Affected vehicles have a maximum governed speed of 106 mph, but are fitted with tires that are only rated for a maximum speed of 87 mph.

Yon said Fiat Chrysler waited for months before selecting a supplier to produce trailer hitch assemblies after it had agreed in 2013 to recall 1.56 million SUVs for gas tank fire risks.

NHTSA says the company also misled them about their Takata recalls and didn’t notify owners of problems about those for months.

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The hearing is ongoing as of this writing, with Fiat Chrysler presenting their side. If found to be at fault by the end of the hearing, and they probably will be, the automaker could face millions of dollars in fines, federal oversight or be subjected to buybacks.

And as I said in The Morning Shift today, what we’re seeing is likely the new face of NHTSA — one that seeks to put automakers under the sword more forcefully and more forcefully as they attempt to convince a skeptical public (and a skeptical Congress) that they aren’t totally incompetent.

More on this as we get it.


Contact the author at patrick@jalopnik.com.