Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will pay a $70 million fine, accept three years of additional oversight by an independent monitor and buy back potentially 200,000 vehicles as part of a consent agreement to settle a U.S. government probe into 23 recalls since 2009.
The $70 million cash fine is part of a potential $105 million civil penalty, the largest ever imposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and part of a sweeping settlement to spur an overhaul of the automaker’s safety and recall practices, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced.
Fiat Chrysler must spend another $20 million to meet performance requirements laid out by the consent agreement. The automaker may have to pay another $15 million if the monitor discovers additional violations of U.S. auto safety laws, or if Fiat Chrysler violates terms set by the consent order, the department said.
Fiat Chrysler, as part of the consent agreement, admitted that it “failed to timely provide an effective remedy” in three recall campaigns, and that it failed to comply with “various reporting requirements” of U.S. laws governing recalls in a timely manner.
In a separate statement, the company said it accepted “the resulting consequences with renewed resolve to improve our handling of recalls and re-establish the trust our customers place in us.” The company said it was also “intent on rebuilding our relationship with NHTSA” and embracing the role of a public safety advocate.
NHTSA and other government officials appeared pleased with the broad agreement and the message it will send to other automakers.
“This civil penalty puts manufacturers on notice that the Department will act when they do not take their obligations to repair safety defects seriously,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
The deal resolves the government’s inquiry into the 23 Fiat Chrysler recalls that were outlined at a rare public hearing on the issue on July 2. The independent monitor could identify additional issues that require attention, according to a NHTSA official.
That monitor, to be approved by NHTSA, will “assess, track and report the company’s recall performance” for the next three years, part of “unprecedented” additional oversight by the agency agreed to by Fiat Chrysler, the Transportation Department said.
As part of the deal, Fiat Chrysler has agreed to buy back approximately 200,000 vehicles, mostly Ram Trucks, with defective steering parts that could cause the vehicles to lose control. Details are not yet available on how this will work yet, but best guess is it will involve depreciation, damage, and reconditioning costs. Owner will have the choice of getting the truck repaired if they do not want the buyback option. The list of vehicles eligible for the buy back program is at the end of this article. It is important to note, if the recall has been performed, you are not eligible for the buy back offer.
Fiat Chrysler said more than 60 percent of the trucks already have been fixed, and the company is allowed to repair and resell the vehicles it buys back.
In other action, owners of more than 1 million Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee SUVs with rear-mounted fuel tanks linked to several deadly fires can either trade-in their vehicles for above-market value, or opt to take a “financial incentive” to have a trailer hitch installed, the department said.
In 2013, some 1.5 million older Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee SUVs were recalled to install trailer hitches if they didn’t already have one to protect the fuel tank in a rear-end collision and lessen the risk of a fire following such a crash. If you have had the trailer hitch installed already, you are not eligible for any additional offers.
The plan was a compromise brokered by FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and NHTSA’s then-administrator David Strickland, who initially wanted the automaker to recall 2.7 million Jeeps for the problem, but the first run of replacement trailer hitches weren’t manufactured until nearly a year later, in May 2014, prompting renewed scrutiny from the agency.
As of April 30, FCA had installed trailer hitches on about 320,000 of the 1.5 million recalled Jeeps.
Friday, NHTSA said it would launch a new investigation into Fiat Chrysler’s handling of a recall of about 1.4 million vehicles for possible cybersecurity flaws following a report that hackers took remote control of a moving Jeep. If you have one of the Uconnect systems in a Chrysler product that is vulnerable to hacking, check our recall section today to see which vehicles are affected, and how to upload the fix yourself.
Potential List Of Vehicles Eligible For Buy Back
- 2009 model year Chrysler Aspen
- 2009 model year Dodge Durango
- 2009-2012 model years Dodge Ram 1500
- 2009-2011 model years Dodge Dakota
Reason for recall: (13V-038): To correct a defect that may cause the axle to lock. As a result, driver may lose steering power and crash.
When: Feb. 6, 2013
Number: 278,229 vehicles
- 2008-2012 model years Dodge Ram 4500
- 2008-2012 model years Dodge
- Ram 5500
Reason for recall (13V-527): To fix a defect that may cause the driver to lose steering power and crash.
When: Nov. 6, 2013
Number: 36,710 vehicles
- 2008 model year Dodge Ram 1500
- 2008-2012 model years Dodge Ram 2500
- 2008-2012 model years Dodge Ram 3500
Reason for recall (13V-529): To repair and replace steering linkages that may cause the driver to lose steering power and crash.
When: Nov. 6, 2013
Number: 265,057 vehicles