Fiat Chrysler must offer to buy back from customers more than 500,000 Ram pickup trucks and other vehicles in the biggest such action in US history as part of a costly deal with safety regulators to settle legal problems in about two dozen recalls. The Italian-American automaker also faces a record civil fine of up to $105 million. In addition, owners of more than a million older Jeeps with vulnerable rear-mounted gas tanks will be able to trade them in or be paid by Chrysler to have the vehicles repaired. The settlement is the latest sign that auto safety regulators are taking a more aggressive approach toward companies that fail to disclose defects or don't properly conduct a recall.
The Ram pickups, which are the company's top-selling vehicle, have defective steering parts that can cause drivers to lose control. Some previous repairs have been unsuccessful, so Fiat Chrysler agreed to the buyback, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Owners also have the option of getting them repaired. The older Jeeps have fuel tanks located behind the rear axle, with little to shield them in a rear crash. They can rupture and spill gasoline, causing a fire. Both the Jeep and Ram measures are part of a larger settlement between the government and the automaker over allegations of misconduct in 23 recalls covering more than 11 million vehicles.
Models included in the buyback offer, which is expected to cost the company billions:
- Certain Ram 1500s from 2009 to 2012
- The Ram 1500 Mega Cab 4 by 4 from 2008
- The Ram 2500 4 by 4, 3500 4 by 4, 4500 4 by 4, and 5500 4 by 4, all from 2008 through 2012
- 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango SUVs
- The Dodge Dakota pickup from 2009 through 2011