Fiat Chrysler must offer to buy back from customers more than 500,000 Ram pickup trucks in the biggest such action in U.S. history as part of a costly deal with safety regulators to settle legal problems in about two-dozen recalls.
The trucks, which are the company’s top-selling vehicle, have defective steering parts that can cause drivers to lose control, and some previous repairs have been unsuccessful. So to get them off the roads, Fiat Chrysler agreed to the buyback, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Owners also have the option of getting them repaired, the agency said in documents released Sunday.
Also, owners of more than a million older Jeeps with vulnerable rear-mounted gas tanks will be able to trade in their vehicles for more than market value or be paid to get them repaired, the agency said in a statement. The Jeeps’ fuel tanks are behind the rear axle and have little to shield them in a rear crash. They can rupture and spill gasoline, setting the vehicles on fire. At least 75 people have died in crash-related fires, although Fiat Chrysler maintains they are as safe as comparable vehicles from the same era.
… NHTSA has been involved in vehicle buybacks in the past, but never one of this size. A buyback usually happens when a problem is so serious that it can’t be fixed and the vehicles need to be removed from service. The buyback and the Jeep trade-ins likely will cost Fiat Chrysler hundreds of millions of dollars or more. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, which is technically based in the Netherlands but includes the Italian and U.S. companies, posted first-quarter net profit of $101 million.