FCA offers incentives up to $2K after recall

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Monday unveiled details of its incentive and buyback program for some recalls as part of its record-setting $105 million settlement with federal regulators.

The program includes $100 prepaid Visa cards for getting repairs made to recalled vehicles; trade-in incentives of up to $2,000 on some models; or repurchases of the vehicles for their market value, plus 10 percent. Owners will be able to learn as early as Tuesday the estimated value of their SUVs and trucks.

Fiat Chrysler also disclosed as part of a consent order with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it has hired Deloitte to review and evaluate the company’s procedures for compliance with NHTSA regulations. A monitor will be selected to oversee the company’s compliance with the three-year agreement that came after NHTSA raised questions about FCA’s handling of 23 recall campaigns covering more than 11 million vehicles.

FCA US said it has begun contacting customers about the incentives.

The incentives are designed to “boost completion rates for certain ongoing recalls” involving older SUVs and trucks for which remedies were not immediately available,” the company said. The automaker said last month that it already had repaired 70 percent of about 578,000 eligible vehicles, leaving 175,000 that could be bought back by the company.

“Remedies are available, we are servicing vehicles, and we encourage affected customers to contact their dealers,” said Scott Kunselman, FCA’s senior vice president-vehicle safety and regulatory compliance. “It is imperative that all vehicles implicated by recalls are inspected and serviced, as required.”

On the SUVs and pickups, a problem with the rear axle pinion nut can cause the axle to lock up. The large trucks have tie-rod assembly steering problems. Fiat Chrysler said all of the eligible owners have been sent letters.

Owner of eligible vehicles have three options:

■They can receive a $100 Visa prepaid card for getting repairs done. Money on the card can be spent anywhere; the repairs will be free.

■They can opt to negotiate trade-ins on new FCA vehicles. To take advantage of the trade-in offer, a customer and dealer establish a value for the trade-in vehicle, complete the purchase of a new vehicle and receive — in addition to all current applicable incentives — a $2,000 incentive on a Ram-brand vehicle, or $1,000 on a Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge or Fiat vehicle. The trade-in program that expires Jan. 4.

■They can opt for a repurchase plan that, like the prepaid card incentives, has no expiration date. To participate in the repurchase program, customers are instructed to visit www.fcarecall.com beginning Tuesday. There they will see a preliminary estimated value of their vehicles, according to “good” market value, plus 10 percent.

Beginning Oct. 1, owners may contact dealers to arrange for vehicle inspections. Dealers will then call a third-party administrator to complete the inspection and present a final offer to customers, who then can get $100 for getting repairs, accept the trade-in incentive or accept the buyback offer. Fiat Chrysler is allowed to resell the vehicles under the buyback.

“We are committed to further improving our recall completion rates,” Kunselman says. “The added benefit of our efforts, we hope, will be to elevate public awareness of the need to respond to recall notices, and a greater understanding of the recall process.

Fiat Chrysler also is offering $100 gift cards to get trailer hitch assemblies installed in older Jeep SUVs to reduce the risk of gas tank fires in rear crashes.

The $100 offer applies to owners of 1993-98 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-07 Jeep Liberty SUVs that were not fixed or inspected as of July 24.

Owners of the affected Grand Cherokees may choose one of two options: receive a $100 Visa prepaid card upon completion of recall-related service; or trade in the vehicle and receive a $1,000 incentive toward the purchase of a new vehicle, or a $1,000 Visa prepaid card usable for parts or service at the FCA US dealership accepting the trade-in.

Owners of the covered Libertys will receive a $100 Visa card on completion of repairs or inspection.

Recall incentives and buybacks are rare, but not unprecented in the auto industry.

Last fall, General Motors Co. offered $25 gift cards to 705,000 owners of recalled older model Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other small cars with defective ignition switches as an incentive to get the cars fixed.

And in 2008, Toyota Motor Corp. offered to buy back 1995-2000 model-year Tacoma pickups whose frames were rusted beyond repair. The buyback, at 11/2 times the Kelley Blue Book price, applied to pickups in 20 states that salt roads in the winter.


Buyback offer

The buyback plan covers the following unrepaired vehicles:

■2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango

■2009-12 Dodge Ram/Ram 1500

■2009-11 Dodge Dakota

■2008 Dodge Ram/Ram Mega Cab 4x4

■2008-12 Dodge Ram/Ram 2500 and 3500 4x4

■2008-12 Dodge Ram/Ram 2500 4x2 Cab Chassis

■2008-12 Dodge Ram/Ram 4500 and 5500