The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has ordered Fiat-Chrysler to offer to buy back from customers any of the 580,000 pickup trucks and SUVs that it failed to fix during several recalls, and which according to FCA, amount to nearly 200,000 vehicles.
Not only is this the biggest buyback action in US history, but to make matters worse for the carmaker, the NHTSA also imposed the largest ever civil penalty on the Fiat Chrysler Automobile group (FCA) at (up to) $105 million.
The automaker must pay a $70 million cash penalty which matches the record $70 million civil penalty the agency imposed on Honda in January, plus at least $20 million on meeting performance requirements included in the Consent Order, while another $15 million could come due if the independent monitor discovers additional violations of the Safety Act or the Consent Order.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that FCA acknowledged violations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act’s requirements to repair vehicles with safety defects.
“Today’s action holds Fiat Chrysler accountable for its past failures, pushes them to get unsafe vehicles repaired or off the roads and takes concrete steps to keep Americans safer going forward,” said Secretary Foxx. “This civil penalty puts manufacturers on notice that the Department will act when they do not take their obligations to repair safety defects seriously.”
The civil penalties and buyback program stem from an NHTSA investigation into FCA’s poor track record in communication and completing repairs for 23 separate recalls covering more than 11 million defective vehicles
“Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers, and the driving public, at risk,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said. “This action will provide relief to owners of defective vehicles, will help improve recall performance throughout the auto industry, and gives Fiat Chrysler the opportunity to embrace a proactive safety culture.”
According to Cars.com, the vehicles that are eligible for the buyback program include:
- 2009-2012 Ram 1500 pickup trucks built from Feb. 27, 2008, through June 30, 2009, and Dec. 1, 2009, through Oct. 20, 2011. They were recalled in 2013 for rear suspension problems.
- 2009-2011 Dodge Dakota pickups built from Feb. 27, 2007, through June 30, 2009, and Dec. 1, 2009, through Sept. 30, 2011. They were recalled in 2013 for rear suspension problems.
- 2009 Dodge Durango SUVs built from Jan. 3. 2008, through Dec. 18, 2008. They were recalled in 2013 for rear suspension problems.
- 2009 Chrysler Aspen SUVs built from Jan. 3, 2008, to Dec. 18, 2008. They were recalled in 2013 for rear suspension problems.
- 2008-2012 Ram 4500 and 5500 heavy-duty trucks built from Feb. 20, 2007, through Dec. 22, 2012. They were recalled in 2013 for problems with the steering system.
- 2008-2012 Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups with four-wheel drive, recalled in 2013 for problems with the steering system.
- 2008-2012 Ram 3500 chassis-cab pickups with rear-wheel drive, recalled in 2013 for problems with the steering system.
- 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 Mega Cab pickups with four-wheel drive, recalled in 2013 for problems with the steering system.
FCA issued a statement to clarify that the buyback program offer applies only to vehicles that have not yet received repairs according to their respective recall actions and which it estimates to be less than 200,000 trucks and SUVs.
“FCA US will offer to owners whose vehicles have not yet been remedied, as an alternative remedy, to repurchase those vehicles at a price equal to the original purchase price less a reasonable allowance for depreciation plus ten percent,” read the company’s statement.
“However, customers responding to the recall may continue to keep their vehicles and have them repaired in accordance with the original recall. As of this date, repairs have been completed on well over 60% of the subject vehicles, leaving less than two hundred thousand eligible vehicles. As is expressly provided for under the consent order, FCA intends that any vehicles repurchased will be remedied and resold,” said the company.