Fiat Chrysler becomes the third automaker after Honda Motor Co. and General Motors to fall under additional oversight by NHTSA since 2014 because of recall lapses. FCA has been in talks with NHTSA over the penalties for several weeks after the agency's July 2 hearing into the company's recall and safety practices.
At the hearing, NHTSA cited evidence that Fiat Chrysler had taken too long to launch recalls, delayed producing parts needed to repair defects, and didn't do enough to ensure that consumers were notified and complied in a timely manner.
Rosekind, the head of NHTSA, said then that Fiat Chrysler had exhibited a pattern of not meeting its legal obligations covering recalls. At the hearing, Scott Kunselman, senior vice president of vehicle safety and regulatory affairs for Fiat Chrysler, acknowledged the company has fallen short while handling recalls and said NHTSA officials had "legitimate" concerns about the automaker's practices.
On Friday, NHTSA said it would launch a new investigation into Fiat Chrysler's handling of a recall of about 1.4 million vehicles for possible cybersecurity flaws following a report that hackers took remote control of a moving Jeep.
In 2013, some 1.5 million older Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee SUVs were recalled to install trailer hitches if they didn't already have one to protect the fuel tank in a rear-end collision and lessen the risk of a fire following such a crash.
The plan was a compromise brokered by FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and NHTSA's then-administrator David Strickland, who initially wanted the automaker to recall 2.7 million Jeeps for the problem. But the first run of replacement trailer hitches weren't manufactured until nearly a year later, in May 2014, prompting renewed scrutiny from the agency.
As of April 30, FCA had installed trailer hitches on about 320,000 of the 1.5 million recalled Jeeps.
The pace of fixes has been slow and sporadic, frustrating government officials.
NHTSA, amid a record string of recalls and high-profile safety lapses throughout the industry, has also come under fire from U.S. lawmakers and consumer advocates for failing to adequately monitor automakers and their suppliers.
Under Rosekind, who took over as administrator in December, the agency has moved to crack down on automakers and taken a harder stance on longtime industry safety practices. Foxx and NHTSA officials have also called for higher fines, now capped by Congress at $35 million per offense.
The agency, after a blistering report from the Transportation Department's inspector general, is overhauling its operations, notably defect analysis, while ratcheting up probes of automakers. It has also pressed for more cooperation from automakers.
“We need a proactive safety culture in this country,” Rosekind told reporters last week at a briefing in Detroit.
Honda was slapped with a $70 million fine in January -- the biggest levy at the time -- for failing to disclose more than 1,700 reports of deaths, injuries and other "early warning" information to federal safety officials over more than a decade.
Last year, General Motors was fined $35 million for failing to notify regulators in a timely manner of faulty ignition switches on older models that have been linked to more than 120 deaths. NHTSA recently decided to extend its oversight of GM's safety and recall practices.
David Phillips contributed to this report.