NHTSA, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, fined Fiat Chrysler a record $105 Million Dollars last week. Under the order, Fiat Chrysler is required to buy back as many as 500,000 vehicles with defective suspensions that can cause drivers to lose control. Also, owners of more than one million Jeeps with rear-mounted gas tanks that are prone to fires will be given an opportunity to trade in their vehicles at rates above market value.
The Jeep gas tanks are very reminscient of the Ford Pinto gas tank placement – in the rear center of the vehicle. This can cause a post collision fire to start after a rear end collision that compromises the gas tank.
This is a 2003 Jeep after a rear end collision that resulted in the death of a young woman who was 8 months pregnant.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, on average, 33 highway vehicle fires are reported nationwide per hour. These fires kill one person per day. While there are multiple causes for the fires (mechanical failure, electrical failure, misuse, intentional, or wrecks), only 3% of the fires are caused by wrecks but 57% of the deaths from vehicle fires are associated with collisions.
One of the reasons there is such a high percentage of deaths from post-collision fires is because of defects such as the one in the Jeep gas tank.
This photograph shows the location of the Jeep gas tank in certain Grand Cherokees and Jeep Liberty vehicles.
Owners of Grand Cherokees and Jeep Liberty vehicles should have already received a recall notice. Unfortunately, NHTSA found, in part, that Chrysler was not doing enough to let vehicle owners know of the real risks and dangers associated with this defective design. Some people did not receive the recall notices. People that received the recall notices, not recognizing the seriousness of the defect, did not take the time to take the vehicle in for repairs. Those that tried to had a “slow” rate of repair, according to government investigators. There are 1.59 million Jeeps with this defect on the road today. The company is installing trailer hitches on the affected Jeeps to soften the impact of rear-end collisions.
This was part of the reason NHTSA fined Chrysler the record $105 Million recently. Mark R. Rosekind, who took over as the administrator of the highway safety agency last December, said the heavy fine was a direct result of Fiat Chrysler’s prolonged failures to fix recalled models.
“Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers, and the driving public, at risk,” he said. Rosekind promised in early July that the agency would move quickly to take action in response to Fiat Chrysler’s handling of recalls involving up to 11 million vehicles and he delivered.
Under the terms of an agreement with the Department of Transportation, Chrysler acknowledged violations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act’s requirements to repair vehicles with safety defects, after a hearing earlier in the month outlined problems with the auto maker’s execution of 23 recalls covering more than 11 million defective vehicles.
The government penalties target lapses spanning nearly two dozen recalls affecting more than 11 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles, including older Jeeps described above. In addition, on Friday, Fiat Chrysler announced it would recall 1.4 million vehicles in the United States to install software to prevent hackers from gaining remote control of the engine, steering and other systems.
Fiat-Chrysler must pay the purchase price minus “a reasonable allowance for depreciation,” the consent order said. The automaker will give a 10 percent bonus to owners who did not have the recall repair completed. Fiat-Chrysler will be allowed to repair the affected vehicles and to resell them.
If you have a Fiat Chrysler manufactured vehicle, you can determine if it is the subject of a recall by visiting http://recalls.mopar.com/. If you have any vehicle and want to determine if it is the subject of a recall, you can search by vehicle identification number at https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/.
If you or a loved one have been injured or killed by a defective vehicle, you should seek immediate legal representation.