Fiat Chrysler Faces Additional NHTSA Fine; Agrees To Buy Back 1.5 Million Defective Vehicles
In July of 2015, the first speculation that Fiat Chrysler may be forced to buyback many of its defective vehicles occurred. At the time, the company was in negotiations with NHTSA over allegations that Fiat Chrysler had mishandled nearly 24 recalls of defective cars and trucks. At the time, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “Merely identifying defects is not enough. Manufacturers that fail in their duty to fix these defects will pay a price.”
These actions and statements have made clear that the United States regulatory regime was embarrassed by the string of high profile, deadly vehicle defects that have beset the auto industry in recent years. Problems such as the Toyota unintended acceleration defect, Takata exploding airbag inflator defect, and the General Motors ignition switch defect have embarrassed regulators and the industry. Actions like these show that NHTSA and other agencies are abandoning their deferential approach for a more aggressive one.
Fiat Chrysler Agrees to Pay Fine Due to failure to Report Deaths and Injuries to NHTSA
Fiat Chrysler announced that it agreed to pay a $70 million fine for failing to report claims of death and injury to U.S. auto safety regulators. This failure to report was a violation of U.S. law. The $70 million fine is in addition to an earlier $105 million penalty imposed against the company. The failures to provide information under this law has been characterized as a “significant failure” by the company. For its part the company as stated, “[Fiat Chrysler] takes this issue extremely seriously, and will continue to cooperate with NHTSA to resolve this matter and ensure these issues do not re-occur.”
Automakers and other covered parties are required to disclose certain injuries and deaths to the U.S. government under a 2000 law passed after the Firestone tire defects and recall. The Early Warning reports were intended to provide data to regulators and automakers so that problems could be caught earlier in the process thus preventing them from becoming a widespread crisis. Unfortunately, due to uneven reporting and other failures by parties required to submit data, the system has not functioned as effectively as envisioned. In fact, recent years have shattered records for recalls after problems in vehicles were allowed to linger and grow for a decade or more.
In 2015 alone, Fiat Chrysler has recalled more than 11 million vehicles across 38 recall campaigns. According to CNBC, this is an all-time record. The company has been impacted by widespread reports of fuel tank fires in its popular Jeep SUVs. While the company initially provided the “fix” of hear trailer hitches, such action was widely criticized by safety advocates as insufficient. Now, Fiat Chrysler has announced details of a buyback and repair incentive plan as part of a deal with government regulators.
Buyback Program Involves 3 of 23 Investigated Recall Campaigns
Owners of affected vehicles who have not already had their vehicle repaired may be eligible for the buyback program or incentives to secure repair. Owners and drivers of the following vehicles should immediately seek repair or replacement of their vehicle if they have not done so already:
• 2009 Chrysler Aspen SUVs produced from Jan. 3, 2008, through Dec. 18, 2008.
• 2009 Dodge Durango SUVs produced from Jan. 3, 2008, through Dec. 18, 2008.
• 2009-2012 Ram 1500 pickups produced from Feb. 27, 2008, through June 30, 2009, and from Dec. 1, 2009, through Oct. 20, 2011
• 2009-2012 Dodge Ram & produced from Feb. 27, 2008, through June 30, 2009, and from Dec. 1, 2009, through Oct. 20, 2011
• 2009-2011 Dodge Dakota pickups produced from Feb. 27, 2007, through June 30, 2009, and from Dec. 1, 2009, through Sept. 30, 2011
• 2008-2012 Dodge Ram & Ram 2500 and 3500 4×4 pickups
• 2008-2012 Dodge Ram & Ram 3500 4×2 Cab Chassis vehicles
• 2008 Dodge Ram 4×4 pickups
• 2008 Ram Mega Cab 4×4 pickups
• 2008-2012 Dodge Ram trucks produced from Feb. 20, 2007, through December 2012
• 2008-2012 Ram 4500 trucks produced from Feb. 20, 2007, through December 2012
• 2008-2012 Dodge Ram5500 trucks produced from Feb. 20, 2007, through December 2012
The above represents only the vehicles that are eligible for the buyback program. Since only 3 out of the 38 total recall campaigns are covered by this action, drivers of Chrysler Fiat vehicles are encouraged to verify the recall status of their vehicle by visiting safercar.gov and using the VIN look-up tool.
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