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Fiat Chrysler 'faces record fine over safety recall breaches'

Published 26/07/2015

Fiat Chrysler is facing a record fine for violating safety laws in a series of recalls (AP)
Fiat Chrysler is facing a record fine for violating safety laws in a series of recalls (AP)

Fiat Chrysler is set to be hit with a record 105 million dollar (£67m) fine by the US government for violating laws in a series of vehicle safety recalls.

According to the Associated Press, a source said t he National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will reveal the fine tomorrow.

In addition, Fiat Chrysler will be required to buy back a group of recalled vehicles to get them off the roads, said the source.

Fiat Chrysler will allegedly also agree to an independent monitor to review recalls.

The company is said to be prepared to make payments to owners of 1.56 million recalled older-model Jeeps with fiuel tanks behind the rear axle to bring them to dealers to install trailer hitches to help protect the tanks. The tanks are vulnerable and can leak fuel if damaged in rear collisions. The company maintains the Jeeps are as safe as comparable vehicles built at the time, and it will not buy them back.

The news was first reported today by The Wall Street Journal on its website.

The agency's actions come less than a month after it held a rare public hearing to detail problems with 23 Fiat Chrysler recalls covering more than 11 million cars and trucks. It's another sign that NHTSA is taking a much tougher stance against car makers that do not obey auto safety laws.

At the July 2 hearing, NHTSA detailed an alarming litany of shortfalls: failure to notify customers of recalls, delays in making and distributing repair parts, and in some cases failing to come up with repairs that fix the problems. Some of the recalls date to 2013.

After the hearing, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said Fiat Chrysler would surely be punished. "There's a pattern that's been going on for some time," he said.

During the hearing, Fiat Chrysler did not dispute any of NHTSA's allegations. Scott Kunselman, the company's head of vehicle safety, said it was changing the way it manages safety to follow the industry's best practices.

The safety system, he said, had been reorganised with added personnel. He now reports directly to CEO Sergio Marchionne.

"We have learned from our mistakes and missteps," he said.

In a separate move Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 1.6 million vehicles in the US to fix two separate issues affecting its Ram pick-up trucks.

The first recall is to repair a steering wheel wiring harness that could rub against a spring in the air bag module. The resulting abrasion from the friction could cause an electrical short, prompting the front air bags to unexpectedly deploy. The recall affects just over 1 million 2012 to 2014 Ram trucks that were manufactured between January, 2011 and October, 2014.

The car maker is also recalling more than half a million trucks to fix faulty impact sensors. The faulty sensors could cause seat belt pre-tensioners to activate and air bags to deploy unexpectedly, increasing the risk of a crash or injury, according to a statement posted on the US Department of Transportation website.

Fiat Chrysler said it is aware of two minor injuries that were potentially related to the sensor fault, but no accidents. The company also said in an e-mailed statement that the impact sensor problem mainly affected four-door vehicles. The sensor issue affects 667,406 in the US and 176,130 vehicles overseas.

On Friday it said it was recalling about 1.4 million cars and trucks in the US after two hackers revealed that they were able to take control of a Jeep Cherokee SUV over the Internet. In that recall, Fiat Chrysler said it would update software to insulate the vehicles from being remotely controlled.

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