Imagine you are driving down the road and see traffic up ahead. The cruise control is activated, so you try to turn it off and… nothing happens. Will you have time to stop? It’s a nightmare no driver wants to face. That’s exactly the reason Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is recalling more than 5.3 million vehicles: a faulty cruise control that “could prevent drivers from deactivating the control…”
As they are processing the recalls, Chrysler is asking that drivers not use the feature on their vehicles. The recall will apply to about 4.8 million vehicles in the U.S. and about 490,000 in Canada. To date, no accidents or injuries have been reported in conjunction with this issue. If drivers do find themselves in a car with the cruise control engaged and cannot get it to disengage, Chrysler representatives said the vehicles could be “forced to stop” by applying the brakes or by shifting into neutral and applying the brakes. Once the vehicle is stopped, drivers are advised to shift from neutral or drive into park, at which time the cruise control will disengage.
This recall comes just a few years after a 2015 consumer PR issue in which automotive industry regulators hit the automaker with about $175 million in fines for “safety lapses.” So far, there’s no dollar figure on what these recalls will cost Chrysler.
While applauding Chrysler for warning consumers the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration released a statement in which the NHTSA “strongly” encouraged people to follow the advice of not using cruise control until the issue had been resolved.
While no automaker likes to deal with a recall, it’s part of the business for this industry. From a public relations perspective, it’s much easier to issue a recall, and to be clear and concise in your communication to customers, than to wait and end up in the news due to an equipment failure that could have been solved by a recall.
In recent years, several automakers and car parts manufacturers have learned that lesson the hard way. From faulty airbags to malfunctioning ignition switches, companies that wait can reap much more negative consequences, both in PR and in their bottom line.
Currently, there are class action lawsuits against General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen, and Mercedes, claiming these companies were aware of issues with the “exploding” Takata airbag inflators, but “waited years” to communicate those concerns. Regardless of the outcome of those lawsuits, every time they are reported on, these companies will take a hit in consumer confidence levels, offering an advantage to their competition.