U.S. auto safety regulators fine Fiat Chrysler record $105 million

Sun Jul 26, 2015 8:17pm EDT
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By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. auto safety watchdog, toughening its stance against manufacturer defects, announced on Sunday a record $105 million in fines against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV FCHA.MI over lapses in safety recalls involving millions of vehicles.

The Italian-U.S. automaker's consent agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contains an unprecedented buyback option covering hundreds of thousands of vehicles, including more than 1 million Jeep sport utility vehicles, whose owners can receive a trade-in or a financial incentive to get their vehicles repaired.

Fiat Chrysler also agreed to submit to an independent monitor's audit of its recall performance over a three-year period.

The $105 million in fines sets a new standard for NHTSA's dealings with car manufacturers, eclipsing the previous record fine of $70 million imposed against Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote) in January for failing to report death, injury and other claims.

Last year, General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) was ordered to pay $35 million for a decade-long delay in reporting faulty ignition switches tied to more than 120 deaths.

NHTSA has taken a more aggressive enforcement posture under its new administrator, Mark Rosekind, after coming under fire from leaders of both parties in Congress for lapses in its handling of deadly defects, including Takata Corp (7312.T: Quote) air bag inflators and GM ignition switches.

"Fiat Chrysler's pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers and the driving public at risk," Rosekind said in a statement. "This action will provide relief to owners of defective vehicles, will help improve recall performance throughout the auto industry, and gives Fiat Chrysler the opportunity to embrace a proactive safety culture."

The recalled vehicles covered by the agreement include Dodge Ram, Dakota and Chrysler Aspen trucks from model years as early as 2008. More than half a million of the vehicles subject to buybacks have faulty suspension parts that can cause a loss of control.   Continued...

2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee are exhibited on a car dealership in New Jersey, July 24, 2015. Fiat Chrysler will recall 1.4 million vehicles in the United States to install software to prevent hackers from gaining remote control of the engine, steering and other systems in what federal officials said was the first such action of its kind. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz