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The Associated Press March 10, 2010, 1:52PM ET

Fiat Brazil fined for failing to recall vehicles

Brazil's Justice Ministry said Wednesday it has fined the local Fiat subsidiary for failing to recall Stilo models to fix a wheel problem that may have caused eight deaths since 2004.

The ministry said in a statement posted on its Web site that the Brazilian subsidiary of Fiat SpA was fined 3 million reals ($1.7 million)for not recalling Stilo models made since 2004 because of a problem that may cause the rear wheels to fall off.

The statement said that the eight people lost their lives in 30 accidents involving lost Stilo wheels over the past six years

A spokeswoman for the National Transit Department said the problem involved "malfunctioning components that secure the wheels to the car." She spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department regulations.

Justice Ministry press spokesman Renato Oliveira said the problem was first reported to consumer protection officials in 2004, and after an investigation, the first recall was requested two years later.

"Fiat was asked to recall the Stilos in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 but the company, claiming there was nothing wrong with the wheels, refused to issue the recall, which is why we have fined Fiat.

He said the Sao Paulo Consumer Protection Service may also slap a 3 million real ($1.7 million) fine on the Italian automaker for "marketing a product it should have known was dangerous."

Fiat said in a statement it will recall the cars although it denies there is a problem.

How many cars will be recalled and when, remained unclear.

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