The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has flexed its muscle and leveled Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with a massive fine and buyback program, in addition to requiring strict oversight of future recalls.
A fine of up to $105 million is the result of a settlement between the government and FCA over allegations of misconduct in 23 recalls covering more than 11 million vehicles. Part of that misconduct includes failure to disclose defects and not properly conducting recalls.
The bigger consequence is FCA’s agreement to offer to buy back upward of 500,000 Ram vehicles.
This news might come as a surprise, especially since most of the media reports regarding FCA in recent months have been positive. Under the surface, though, safety problems have plagued the brand, and the NHTSA took notice.
The problems stem from two main recalls:
- Older Jeeps with gas tanks near the back bumper than can cause fire upon impact.
- Defective steering parts in newer Ram trucks that can cause drivers to lose control.
Typically in a recall, the automaker will repair the vehicles as needed, but in Ram’s case, the NHTSA has deemed the affected trucks’ problems so serious that they cannot be fixed and must be removed from the road.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said,
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.
Models included in the buyback offer are certain models of the 2009-2012 Ram 1500, the 2008 Ram 1500 Mega Cab 4×4, and the 2008-2012 Ram 2500 4×4. Also included are the 2009 Chrysler Aspen and 2009-2011 Dodge Durango and Dodge Dakota.
Owners of affected vehicles will be notified and given the opportunity to sell their vehicles back to FCA, while owners of affected Jeep vehicles will have the opportunity to trade their vehicles for above market value or receive compensation to have their vehicles repaired.
We should keep in mind that all the affected vehicles were built before FCA existed, and it’s safe to assume that the defects were addressed and newer vehicles are perfectly safe. Even still, news like this makes it a little harder to add a Jeep or Ram to the shopping list.
Will you still consider buying a Jeep or Ram vehicle?