ST. LOUIS, AUG. 10 -- Chrysler Corp. was fined $7.6 million in federal court here today for selling about 30 previously damaged vehicles as new cars and for odometer violations.
The criminal fine handed down by U.S. District Judge John Nangle is on top of an earlier settlement of more than $16 million in a civil lawsuit.
Chrysler had entered a plea of no contest to the criminal charges in December 1987. "Over $7 million is a substantial amount of money. At this point, we're looking at our legal options and will decide whether to appeal soon," said James Kenyon, a Chrysler spokesman. But he said the size of the fine was not unexpected. "Something in the tens of millions probably would have surprised us," Kenyon said.
Records showed that Chrysler disconnected the odometers on about 60,000 new cars that were driven from one day to five weeks by Chrysler executives before being put up for sale. The company also was accused of changing the odometers on vehicles that had accidentally been left connected. And in about 30 cases, cars damaged in accidents during the time they were being driven by executives were repaired and sold as new.
The government said the scheme occurred between 1949 and 1986.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service said its investigation, which came about because titles for the cars were sent to consumers by mail, resulted in Ch rysler being accused of 15 counts of m ail fraud.
The inspection service, which had brought the charges at the end of a four-year investigation, said that to date Chrysler has replaced all vehicles identified as having been previously damaged, except for cars involved in continuing court cases.