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Fiat Chrysler assessed record fine for Jeep failures

In a prior post, we noted how Fiat Chrysler could be facing additional scrutiny from federal regulators based on inquiries about problems relating to its adaptive cruise control on Jeep Grand Cherokee models. The embattled company recently faced a rare public hearing held by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and was recently assessed a fine for its failure to address safety hazards regarding the placement of its fuel tanks on Jeeps.

Essentially, older model Jeeps with gas tanks behind the rear axle are a safety hazard, as a rear end collision could cause the tanks to rupture and explode, which could lead to drivers and occupants being killed before they can escape. To correct this problem, trailer hitches were supposed to be installed that could act as a buffer to prevent the fuel tanks from being compromised. 

It is unclear whether Fiat Chrysler failed to meet this obligation, but it appears that the combination of this along with other problems led the NHTSA to issue a fine. They include failures in notifying car owners of recalls, delaying necessary repairs and in some instance, failing to find fixes to chronic problems.

The $105 million fine is the largest meted out by the administration. It eclipses the $70 million fine assessed to Honda for its role in the recall of Takata manufactured airbags. While it remains to be seen whether lawsuits will be filed in the wake of this announcement, the administrative penalty could also be seen as a failure to use reasonable care in taking steps to abate problems that led to an accident. 

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