It stands to reason that the recall process is probably a bit of a pain in the ass for major manufacturers of anything, but it’s likely even worse for automotive manufacturers. Still, once a defect has been found, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gets involved, there is an expectation that the recall will be handled correctly and promptly.
It would seem Daimler Trucks’ North American arm — maker of brands like Freightliner and— was somewhat slack on that last bit, because according to a NHTSA probe launched in 2018, the company bungled no less than seven recalls for its products. That has led the government agency to issue something called a consent order as well as a $30 million penalty, NHTSA announced Thursday.
A consent order is an agreement signed by the company stating that it will undertake a series of corrective actions outlined by NHTSA to shore up its recall policies or suffer consequences. Daimler’s consent order states that should a defect be found that would cause a vehicle to no longer comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that it notify NHTSA and begin the recall process within five days of its discovery.
Daimler is also agreeing to dramatically update its IT infrastructure and data management systems to more quickly collect safety information from the many different business units under its control — again, leading to a quicker turnaround on recall reporting. Noticing a theme here, folks?
“The paramount focus for Daimler Trucks North America is on building safe, efficient and reliable commercial vehicles for the customers and drivers who keep our country and the world moving,” a Daimler Trucks representative said in a statement. “In this case, though there are no known accidents or injuries associated with any of the voluntary recalls, we appreciate the opportunity to summarily resolve this matter and continue building safe, efficient and reliable commercial vehicles.”
The consent order between Daimler and NHTSA is set to last two years — though that can be extended by an additional year at NHTSA’s request if the agency deems it necessary. The order states that $10 million of the $30 million sum has to be paid within 60 days, and $5 million must be spent on projects to enhance vehicle safety. Finally, the last $15 million is deferred but NHTSA can make it payable if Daimler doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
Daimler is a big company, so $30 million isn’t that big of a drop in the bucket, all things considered. Still, the issuance of a consent order is hopefully embarrassing enough to shareholders and the like to get the company to comply with NHTSA’s edicts.
Check out the Level 2 Freightliner Cascadia big rig at CES 2019
Update, 10:38 a.m. PT: Added a quote from a Daimler Trucks NA representative.