Fiat Chrysler Fined $90 Million In Penalties for Recall
Liberty and Grand Cherokee Rear Impact Recall Carried Out Too Slowly
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is being fined a record $90 million in civil penalties and costs for its handling of the recalls of more than 11 million vehicles, including 1.5 million Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee SUVs. Those vehicles have been called out for a rear-mounted fuel tank that may rupture and cause a fire in some rear-end collisions, and the company’s response to the recall has been too slow for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) liking.
In addition to the Jeep recalls, the NHTSA fines also pertain to a safety defect in the steering systems of certain Dodge Durango, Chrysler Aspen, and Dodge Ram/Ram pickup vehicles. Those vehicles can experience total steering failure and loss of control.
Most of the penalty ($70 million) is going into NHTSA’s coffers as a civil fine, with the other $20 million issued as a consent order that will require FCA to either buy back certain vehicles or provide financial incentive to owners to have their vehicles repaired. An additional $15 million may be levied if any other violations to the consent order or Motor Vehicle Safety Act are discovered.
Although FCA maintains that the Jeep vehicles in question aren’t defective, the company issued a voluntary recall on the SUVs in June 2013, agreeing to fix them with rear trailer hitches that would protect the fuel tank in low- to medium-speed collisions. FCA famously disputed NHTSA’s claims regarding the Jeeps, citing the extreme crash speeds at which many of the fuel tank fires occurred and the 1993-1997 Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Liberty’s satisfactory performances in federally mandated crash testing when the vehicles were new.
However, in spite of the company’s reservations regarding the recall, NHTSA isn’t satisfied with FCA’s handling of this and other recalls. FCA predicted that it would carry out the entirety of the Jeep recall by March of this year, but that didn’t happen.
Truck Trend has disputed the validity of the recall before, since so many of the rear-end accidents (78 percent) occurred at high speeds that would likely severely injure anyone in even the safest vehicle. One such collision happened when a semi truck traveling at 65 mph struck a stationary Grand Cherokee. A pregnant woman who died when her Jeep Liberty was rear-ended involved another driver who was traveling at more than 70 mph at the time of collision. When such speeds are involved, severe injuries and death are likely even without the presence of a fire. As such, many of us on staff are inclined to agree with FCA’s evaluation of this recall, particularly given the Jeep vehicles satisfied every government regulation at their time of production.
Source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration