Chrysler Creates New Safety Group, Names New Product Chief

(Detroit Free Press/MCT) —

Chrysler has created a new group, led by Scott Kunselman, to concentrate on vehicle safety and regulatory compliance, and named John Nigro as its new product-development chief.

The decision comes amid heightened awareness across the industry and more vigilance from federal regulators about recalls and vehicle safety. Chrysler is the third automaker this year to create a new safety and regulatory group that reports directly to the automaker’s CEO.

General Motors created a similar safety group in March, in the wake of its recall of 2.6 million small cars equipped with defective ignition switches. Separately, Hyundai said last week it would create a safety committee after it agreed to pay a $17.35 million fine for waiting too long to report a safety issue.

Chrysler said Kunselman will report to CEO Sergio Marchionne. He also will remain part of Chrysler’s North American leadership team.

While Chrysler has had its own run-ins with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over the past year, the automaker said its decision to create a new safety group was simply a result of a periodic process of reviewing its corporate structure and its needs.

In July, the NHTSA accused Chrysler of moving too slowly to hire a supplier and begin the production process for trailer hitches designed to provide additional safety for Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty SUVs in rear-end crashes. Chrysler agreed to conduct a safety campaign for 1.56 million Jeep Grand Cherokees from model years 1993-98 and Grand Cherokees and Libertys for the 2002-07 model years, after the NHTSA urged Chrysler to conduct a recall.

Kunselman, 51, had been in charge of purchasing and supplier quality for Fiat and Chrysler’s NAFTA region. Prior to that, he was senior vice president of engineering, a position that included oversight of regulatory compliance.

Previously, Chrysler’s global engineering group was responsible for vehicle safety and regulatory compliance.

Tom Finelli, 44, Chrysler’s director of global standardization, will take Kunselman’s place as head of purchasing and supplier quality.

Chrysler also said today that John Nigro will become head of NAFTA product development, effective immediately. Nigro also will report to Marchionne.

Previously, Nigro, 54, was vice president of systems and component engineering, a position he held since April 2013.

Nigro replaces Mark Chernoby, who was appointed chief operating officer of global product development. Chernoby will oversee product-development activities for Fiat and Chrysler.

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