The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has fined Fiat Chrysler $105 million in its largest civil penalty imposed on an auto manufacturer for misconduct involving recalls. The government said that it has repeatedly failed to notify purchasers of recalls and repair cars in a timely fashion. The previous record was set last year when the NHTSA fined Honda $70 million over its problems with faulty airbags.
The law currently caps the amount of the fine that the NHTSA can impose at $35 million for each violation. The Department of Transportation has requested an increase in the maximum penalty to $300 million.
In this case, Fiat Chrysler received a cash penalty of $70 million. Fiat Chrysler will also spend at least $20 million to meet performance requirements specified in the settlement. An independent monitor will also monitor safety practices at the automaker for the next three years. If the monitor finds additional problems, an extra $15 million penalty can be assessed.
The automaker is also required to purchase or allow the trade-in of more than one million vehicles implicated in the delayed recalls. The settlement requires Fiat Chrysler to buy back as many as 500,000 cars with defective suspensions. Owners of Jeeps with rear-mounted gas tanks will be allowed to trade-in their vehicles at above market value rates. My research indicates the models with rear-mounted tanks are 1993-2004 Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 Liberties.
The Senate has already improved legislation to authorize incentives for auto safety whistleblowers working at car manufacturers, parts suppliers and dealers to report information to the U.S. Government. The bill would create a program similar to the SEC whistleblower program for information provided to the Department of Justice and NHTSB about problems in the auto industry. The next obstacle for the bill is the House of Representatives, where numerous bills to address the recent problems with delayed recalls have been set forth but not acted upon.
If you or a family member has been injured in one of the recalled vehicles, contact our personal injury attorneys immediately.