Fiat Chrysler has agreed to a civil penalty of up to $105 million, the largest ever imposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and will buy back some defective vehicles from owners.
The NHTSA said the automaker “has acknowledged violations” of the rules regarding the repair of vehicles with safety defects. This involves “effective and timely recall remedies, notification of vehicle owners and dealers and notifications to the NHTSA,” the agency said.
“This civil penalty puts manufacturers on notice that the Department will act when they do not take their obligations to repair safety defects seriously,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox.
“Today’s action holds Fiat Chrysler accountable for its past failures, pushes them to get unsafe vehicles repaired or off the roads and takes concrete steps to keep Americans safer going forward,” Fox said.
Owners of more than a half million older Ram pickups with a steering defect that could lead to an accident will have the opportunity to sell their vehicle back to Fiat Chrysler. And, owners of more than a million Jeeps that are prone to “deadly fires” either will have the chance to trade their vehicle in for above market value, or will receive a financial incentive to get their vehicle remedied, the agency said.
In a consent order signed with the agency, FCA also agreed to the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the recalls for three years.
For its part, FCA said it accepts the consequences of the consent order and will move forward with “renewed resolve to improve our handling of recalls and reestablish the trust our customers place in us.”
It will make a $70 million cash payment to the NHTSA and spend $20 million on industry and consumer outreach activities and incentives to boost recall and service campaign completion rates. An additional $15 million will be payable if FCA fails to comply with terms of the consent order.
Here are the vehicles included in the buyback program.
2008-12 Ram pickups both light duty and heavy duty, all with a tie rod problem.
2009-11 Dakotas, 2009 Durangos and Chrysler Aspens for a rear axle problem.
There will also be incentives for one million Jeep owners that had been recalled for gas tank fire risks to get their vehicles in for repairs. In this case, the tank was located behind the rear axle creating a fire risk if the vehicle is rear ended.
Separately, FCA is recalling 1.4 million vehicles over concern that their onboard computers can be hacked and another 2.2 million trucks regarding inadvertent air bag deployments.
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