Federal regulators are fining Fiat Chrysler $105 million for failing to acknowledge and address safety defects in a timely fashion.
The civil penalty — the largest ever imposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — will be accompanied by three years of "unprecedented" federal oversight, the agency says. Fiat Chrysler has also agreed to buy back some vehicles from their owners.
The penalties against the automaker, announced Sunday, were prompted by 23 safety recalls affecting more than 11 million vehicles. Fiat Chrysler acknowledges that those recalls were not sufficiently effective or prompt, and didn't fulfill the legal requirements for notifying owners, dealers and the NHTSA.
Now the automaker has agreed, in a consent order, to "take action to get defective vehicles off the roads or repaired," the NHTSA says.
In some cases that will involve Fiat Chrysler buying back its own cars: more than 500,000 vehicles with defective suspension parts, a flaw that could lead to drivers losing control, will be eligible for buy-backs.
"Owners of more than a million Jeeps that are prone to deadly fires either will have the chance to trade their vehicle in for above its market value, or will receive a financial incentive to get their vehicle remedied," the NHTSA adds.
Fiat Chrysler responded to the announcement of the penalty with a terse statement, saying they acknowledge their safety lapses and "accept the resulting consequences."
The record fine includes a $70 million cash penalty, $20 million in spending to meet requirements and an additional $15 million due if there are any more violations.
Fiat Chrysler is also facing the scrutiny of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over a more recent issue: the voluntary safety recall of 1.4 million U.S. vehicles, to update the software to prevent the possibility of "remote manipulation."
That recall, announced Friday, came after a Wired article reported that Chrysler vehicles could be controlled by hackers miles away.
As Avie Schneider reported for our All Tech Considered blog, Fiat Chrysler said Friday that it had already taken action to prevent such remote hacking, and was issuing the recall out of an "abundance of caution."