FCA’s recent negative “record” of a $105 million penalty agreed through a consent order is now going to become the norm, not the exception, thanks to the swift decision of the US Senate.
The legislators approved a new bill that would see the maximum fines levied by the US auto regulators on automakers for breaching motor-vehicle safety laws taken to the $105 million level. Still, the Senate did overlook other measures that had been promoted by consumer groups. The new $105 million limit will be part of a six-year surface transportation policy bill approved by the Senate on Thursday. The new plan also bans the rental of cars that have not been repaired yet and also proposes that dealers should perform a recall check on consumer vehicles that come in for other, routine service issues. Senator John Thune, the Republican chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, announced the new legislation would improve auto safety and also introduced changes asked by Democrats, such as growing the funding level for defect probes at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the top US auto safety regulator.
But the Obama administration and other, safety-prone groups, had been asking for a higher limit on the fines for auto manufacturers – the Transportation Department had been rooting for a top level of $300 million in fines to act as a more powerful deterrent. Some amendments viewed as ways of improving even further auto safety were overlooked and Democrats were critical of the proposal, as they viewed the bill had missed a tremendous opportunity to introduce needed reforms in the wake of last year’s record tally of recalls.