Fiat Chrysler to pay $70 million fine to US government

AP News
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Posted: Dec 10, 2015 2:42 PM

DETROIT (AP) — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will pay a $70 million fine to the U.S. government for failing to report safety data.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the fine Thursday.

The fine is in addition to a $105 million penalty levied against Fiat Chrysler earlier this year for its mishandling of 23 recalls involving 11 million vehicles. The company must pay $140 million in cash and an additional $35 million if it fails to make required changes.

Fiat Chrysler acknowledged earlier this fall that it failed to provide early warning data to regulators from 2003 onward. That data — which includes deaths, injuries, warranty claims, property damage claims and consumer complaints — helps the government identify potential vehicle defects.

In its consent order assessing the fine, the government says Fiat Chrysler blamed a coding problem in its reporting system for failing to report deaths and injuries. The company also didn't update that system to include the Fiat brand when it went on sale in the U.S. in 2011.

A government spokesman said an independent auditor is still determining how many deaths and injuries Fiat Chrysler failed to report. The company will be required to submit that data when the audit is complete.

"We need FCA and other automakers to move toward a stronger, more proactive safety culture, and when they fall short, we will continue to exercise our enforcement authority to set them on the right path," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

Fiat Chrysler said it accepts the penalty and is revising its processes to ensure it complies in the future. The company also said it is confident it identified and addressed all safety issues despite the failure to report the data.

This year's fines against Fiat Chrysler set a record, beating a $70 million fine assessed against Honda Motor Co. in January for failing to report deaths and injuries.

In addition to the fines, NHTSA required Fiat Chrysler to buy back certain Ram pickup trucks and Dodge and Chrysler SUVs with defective steering parts. More than 579,000 vehicles were initially recalled in 2013, but some previous repairs have been unsuccessful. The buyback order was the largest in U.S. history.

The company also agreed to allow owners of more than a million older Jeeps to trade them in at above-market value or give them $100 toward a repair. The Jeeps have rear-mounted gas tanks that are vulnerable to a fire.

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This version has been corrected to show that Honda fines weren't related to Takata air bags.