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Fiat Chrysler fined record $105 million over recall lapses

Staff writer |
Federal regulators hit Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV with a record $105 million fine for recall lapses covering millions of vehicles.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fined the Italian-U.S. company with the financial penalty and assigned an independent monitor to audit the company’s recall processes for up to four years as part of a sweeping settlement unveiled Sunday evening.

In some cases, the auto maker agreed to repurchase recalled automobiles as part of the deal, including more than half a million with defective suspension parts that can cause the vehicle to lose control.

Fiat Chrysler signed a consent order agreeing to the penalties. The company will have to pay $70 million up front and steer an additional $20 million to industry outreach efforts such as educating manufacturers on meeting legal safety obligations and encouraging suppliers to alert the company to possible defects.

The remaining $15 million is deferred but could become payable if Fiat Chrysler violates the consent order or federal law.

Regulators said Fiat Chrysler violated federal law governing motor-vehicle safety on a variety of fronts.

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

Fiat Chrysler in a statement acknowledged the lapses outlined in the consent order.

“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,” the company said, adding it wants to identify best recall practices and research obstacles that discourage owners from getting repairs.

The penalties, the largest ever levied by regulators against an auto maker, target lapses spanning nearly two dozen recalls affecting more than 11 million vehicles, including older Jeeps with rear gasoline tanks linked to numerous fatal fires.

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