WASHINGTON — Fiat-Chrysler is responding to the concerns of federal safety regulators in 20 recalls covering 11 million vehicles since 2013 with new consumer outreach programs, including a July launch of smartphone applications that will push notifications of recall campaigns directly to the customer.
"This will help significantly increase communication between the company and customer," Fiat-Chrysler said in a 19-page response to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that was posted on the NHTSA Web site on Thursday.
The automaker said it also plans to use telematics to improve communications about recalls. This includes sending safety recall information directly to the radio screen in a vehicle.
"These recall messages would appear prior to vehicle movement on vehicle displays," the company said. "This feature is targeted to be implemented as soon as 2016 for the 2017 model year."
The automaker in April started a Live Chat program that allows the customer to communicate directly with company personnel who can provide recall information and assist in scheduling a service appointment.
The company said it is also using social media to get the word out about recalls, participating in customer club events, such as Jeep Jamborees, purchasing vehicles at auction and searching for vehicles in salvage years.
Dealer initiatives to boost recall rates include free incentives, such as free car washes and oil changes.
Fiat-Chrysler said its dealers were beginning to employ dedicated recall coordinators whose job it is to contact and coordinate with customers to bring their vehicles in for a recall remedy.
Some dealers also have a dedicated service advisor to handle and process only remedy recall service appointments.
On May 18, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a special order to Fiat-Chrysler demanding that the company provide information on its recall performance.
NHTSA will hold a public hearing on July 2 to determine whether the automaker "has failed to remedy safety defects and issue required notices in 20 recalls," the agency said.
In its response, Fiat-Chrysler said it is taking a number of steps at the company and dealership level to move faster and boost recall completion rates. It also said the July 2 hearing is not necessary.
The recalls in question include a 2013 recall of 1.56 million vehicles, including the 1993-'98 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV for rear fuel tank structures that have a risk of failure and a 2014 recall of 651,130 vehicles, including the 2011-'14 Dodge Durango SUV for vanity lamp wiring shortages that may result in fires.
"We take seriously the safety and satisfaction of our customers and remain committed to continuously improving our products," wrote Fiat-Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne in response to a query from Edmunds. "FCA US strives in all cases to complete full investigations, develop robust remedies and execute recalls in a timely manner, as evidenced by our campaign completion rates. However, we continue to be open to additional measures that would further improve our performance."
The Fiat-Chrysler document acknowledges the company did not meet the 60-day requirement for notifying owners of new recalls in five campaigns. One was completed within 12 days of the 60-day deadline, while others were completed in 1-4 days.
Edmunds says: Fiat-Chrysler and its dealers are vowing to take some concrete steps to provide customers with advanced recall information.