Chrysler to pay the Largest Fine Ever Imposed on Safety Defects and Recalls

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Fiat Chrysler will pay a fine of $105 million in civil penalties.  That announcement from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At issue is how the company handled recalls of potentially dangerous automobiles, SUVs and pick up trucks.

A consent order covers 23 safety recalls from Chrysler which ultimately involved 11 million vehicles. The automaker was cited for not doing recalls soon enough and not notifying car dealers and customers of potentially dangerous defects in some vehicles.

“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,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This civil penalty puts manufacturers on notice that the Department will act when they do not take their obligations to repair safety defects seriously.”

NHTSA said “Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers and the driving public at risk,”

Savannah product liability attorney Stephen Lowry couldn’t agree more.  While pleased by the government’s actions, it also was unexpected. The fine surprises me more than anything,” he said.  “The fact that car companies don’t always recall the way they should or as fast as they should or do recalls the way they should is not surprising.  The fact that NHTSA has finally taken some action and given a fine of this nature is surprising.”

In a consent order issued by NHTSA, Fiat Chrysler commits to take action to get defective vehicles off the roads or repaired. NHTSA also says that owners of more than half a million vehicles (Ram pick ups) with defective suspension parts will “have the opportunity to sell their vehicle back to Fiat Chrysler.”  And owners of more than one million Jeeps that are prone to deadly fires will have the chance to trade their vehicle in for above market value, or receive a financial incentive to get their vehicle fixed..

The consent order requires the automaker  to notify vehicle owners eligible for buybacks and other financial incentives.  “The fine covers about 20 different recalled vehicles so it covers a whole gamut of products.  So some of them, you’ll be able to bring your recalled vehicle back in and get the fix you should have gotten all along,” said Lowry.

According to NHTSA, Fiat Chrysler “must pay a $70 million cash penalty – equal to the record $70 million civil penalty the agency imposed on Honda in January.” It says In addition, Fiat Chrysler must spend at least $20 million on meeting performance requirements included in the Consent Order. Another $15 million could come due if the independent monitor discovers additional violations of the Safety Act or the Consent Order.

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