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Fiat Chrysler to pay record civil fine for recall violations


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has slapped Fiat Chrysler with a $105 million civil penalty for multiple violations of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

The penalty surpasses the previous record, a $70 million civil fine against Honda last year, over recall violations related to vehicles with defective airbags.

Fiat Chrysler is accused of not timely notifying NHTSA of defects, leaving out necessary information in reports to the agency, failing to update those reports, and failing to notify owners of recalls in a timely manner.

The automaker is also accused of failing to repair recalled vehicles within a reasonable time.

In a statement, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said, "Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers, and the driving public, at risk."

Fiat Chrysler has agreed to buy back up to 500,000 of the recalled vehicles.

The automaker will offer an alternative to a repair of 1993-1998 recalled Jeep Grand Cherokees.  Owners may opt to trade in their vehicles, with an extra $1,000 incentive, towards the purchase of a new FCA vehicle.

Credit IFCAR / Wikipedia
An older recalled Jeep Grand Cherokee

FCA will also offer a $100 gift certificate to owners of 1993-2004 recalled Jeep Grand Cherokees, and 2002-2007 recalled Jeep Libertys, to bring in the vehicles for repair.

The automaker has also agreed to revamp its recall processes, hire an independent monitor to oversee its recall reform efforts, and hire a Chief Safety Officer, who will report to CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Fiat Chrysler issued this statement Sunday night:

FCA US LLC acknowledges the admissions in its Consent Order with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We also accept the resulting consequences with renewed resolve to improve our handling of recalls and re-establish the trust our customers place in us. We are intent on rebuilding our relationship with NHTSA and we embrace the role of public safety advocate. Accordingly, FCA US has agreed to address certain industry objectives, such as identifying best practices for recall execution and researching obstacles that discourage consumers from responding to recall notices.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.