WASHINGTON — He didn’t call it a come-to-Jesus conversation or say that anyone was being taken to the woodshed, but there was no mistaking what U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx meant when he said it’s time to invite the world’s automakers to Washington for a frank conversation about integrity and their need to recall millions of defective vehicles.

“It’s time to bring everybody in here and have a deeper conversation,” Foxx said Tuesday. “One of them is ‘Look folks, we have millions of people who rely on what you make every day to get everywhere from to work to putting their most precious cargo, their kids, in cars.'”

His comment came on the same day that federal regulators accused Fiat Chrysler of underreporting the number of people who had died in crashes involving its vehicles. The disclosure by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came more than two months after Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay up to $105 million in fines.

The auto industry has been caught in underreporting and misrepresentation to regulators in the past two years, as it has faced the largest number of recalls in its history.

In September, Volkswagen admitted that it had installed software in 11 million diesel vehicles that gave the appearance that the cars met federal emission standards. Air bag manufacturer Takata has faced allegations that it failed to disclose a deadly defect that has led to the recall of 19.2 million vehicles thus far.

Last year General Motors admitted that it had failed to fix an ignition switch problem that led to at least 169 deaths over the course of 10 years. GM agreed to pay a $900-million fine to settle a criminal investigation.

Last year, Toyota admitted that it hid data that showed a defect in Lexus and Toyota vehicles that caused unexpected acceleration. Toyota recalled more than 10 million cars and agreed to pay a $1.2 billion settlement.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.