[WASHINGTON] Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV agreed to pay the US Department of Transportation a record US$105 million following an investigation into whether the company delayed acting on safety defects.
Fiat Chrysler also agreed to buy back more than a half- million vehicles with defective suspension parts that could cause a loss of control, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement Sunday. The company must hire an independent monitor approved by NHTSA.
The agreement is the largest penalty ever imposed by NHTSA, the agency that regulates the auto industry and investigates safety defects. It's the latest in a series of record-breaking fines, with the US$70 million cash portion of Fiat Chrysler's penalty equal to one that Honda Motor Co paid last year.
In additional to the cash penalty, Fiat Chrysler was ordered to spend at least US$20 million to meet NHTSA's performance requirements. The remaining US$15 million could come if the independent monitor finds more violations.
NHTSA has been stepping up its enforcement efforts following criticism that it acted too slowly on reports about failed General Motors Co ignition switches that caused air-bags to lose power.
The agency faced similar complaints over its response to reports that air-bags supplied by Takata Corp could explode, sending shrapnel toward front-seat occupants.