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Feds Levy Record $105 Million Fine Against Fiat Chrysler For Safety Issues

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In this country, federal regulators last night announced a record fine against Fiat Chrysler. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the penalty will climb up to $105 million against the Italian-U.S. automaker. That's the fine for failing to complete nearly two dozen safety recalls covering 11 million vehicles. It's the latest move against automakers by the safety agency as NPR's Jason Margolis reports.

JASON MARGOLIS, BYLINE: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued $126 million in fines last year, more that it had previously collected in its 43-year history. It's now punishing Fiat Chrysler almost that entire amount for misleading and obstructing regulators, lagging on repairs and failing to alert car owners to recalls in a timely manner. The agency is trying to get the attention of automakers and its new heavy hand is working, says David Cole, Chairman Emeritus of the Center for Auto Research.

DAVID COLE: A fine of that magnitude is certainly going to get everybody thinking about it very quickly.

MARGOLIS: In the case of Fiat Chrysler Jeeps, rear-mounted gas tanks are prone to fires. A report this year found that only 12 present of certain Jeep owners had fixed the problem after 18 months. Kelsey Mays, a senior consumer affairs editor at cars.com says Sunday's record fine sends a clear message about who was to blame for those sluggish recalls.

KELSEY MAYS: I think that this signals to automakers that it's incumbent upon the automaker to figure out how to get your owners to fix the recalls, even if you have a particular group of owners who are kind of slow in getting to fix their recall.

MARGOLIS: Fiat Chrysler released a brief statement on Sunday, accepting the consequences, quote, "with renewed resolve to improve our handling of recalls and reestablish the trust our customers place in us." Jason Margolis, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.