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NHTSA: FCA's underreporting of deaths 'goes much deeper' than expected

The agency is close to choosing a safety oversight monitor for FCA.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has warned that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' underreporting of death and injury incidents is much worse than first thought.

"We identified it. They went back. It goes much deeper than I think anybody expected," NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind told reports, according to quotes published by The Detroit News.

After receiving notification from the agency of an apparent discrepancy in its early warning reporting (EWR) numbers, FCA admitted to the underreporting and promised to participate in the subsequent investigation.

Rosekind declined to disclose an estimate of how many deaths and injuries were not included in FCA's required EWR reports, though the results promise to be "pretty surprising." The agency is said to be still uncovering more problems as it continues to look at the data.

"That's what we're trying to figure out," he said. "We find one thing and then it goes back further and so that's what the challenge has been."

In its lengthy dispute with the NHTSA over fuel-tank fire risk in older Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee SUVs, FCA persistently argued that both models were just as safe as segment rivals of the era. It is unclear if the company's statistical analysis was based on numbers that may be affected by the EWR corrections.

Such behavior is not unheard of in the industry. Ferrari was hit with a $3.5 million fine a year ago for failing to comply with EWR regulations, while Honda paid $70 million this year. A recent independent analysis suggests Volkswagen's acknowledged deaths are nearly 10 times below the industry average, though the apparent discrepancy has not yet been publicly addressed by the NHTSA.

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