The U.S. auto safety watchdog, toughening its stance against manufacturer defects, announced on Sunday a record $105 million in fines against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV over lapses in safety recalls involving millions of vehicles.
The Italian-U.S. automaker's consent agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contains an unprecedented buyback option covering hundreds of thousands of vehicles, including more than 1 million Jeep sport utility vehicles, whose owners can receive a trade-in or a financial incentive to get their vehicles repaired.
Fiat Chrysler also agreed to submit to an independent monitor's audit of its recall performance over a three-year period.
The $105 million in fines sets a new standard for NHTSA's dealings with car manufacturers, eclipsing the previous record fine of $70 million imposed against Honda Motor in January for failing to report death, injury and other claims.
Last year, General Motors was ordered to pay $35 million for a decade-long delay in reporting faulty ignition switches tied to more than 120 deaths.
NHTSA has taken a more aggressive enforcement posture under its new administrator, Mark Rosekind, after coming under fire from leaders of both parties in Congress for lapses in its handling of deadly defects, including Takata Corp air bag inflators and GM ignition switches.