Record fine in Toyota recall case
LOS ANGELES -- Toyota Motor Corp.’s ongoing battle with unintended acceleration allegations continued last week when it was stung with a record $17.35 million fine by U.S. regulators for delaying the reporting of a similar safety defect.
The foot-dragging settlement with the U.S. Department of Transportation is the maximum amount Toyota could have been fined. It is the largest civil penalty for a single violation by an automaker and the maximum amount the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can assess.
The fine was in connection to a June 2012 recall that addressed the potential for accelerator pedal entrapment caused by unsecured or incompatible driver’s side floor mats in the 2010 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h crossovers.
That recall came more than two years after a string of related recalls for millions of other Toyota and Lexus vehicles -- either due to floor mat incompatibility or “sticky” accelerator pedals.
Although NHTSA had not received complaints about the two RX models during the early 2010 recalls, reports trickled in later. NHTSA said that when it contacted Toyota in May, the automaker said that it was aware of 63 alleged incidents and said it would recall 154,036 Lexus RX 350s as well as 2010 RX 450h vehicles to address the defect.
Federal law requires automakers to notify NHTSA within five business days of determining that a safety defect exists and to conduct a recall.
The automaker did not admit to any violation of its obligations under the U.S. Safety Act. Ray Tanguay, chief quality officer for Toyota Motor North America, said in a statement that Toyota agreed to the settlement “to avoid a time-consuming dispute” and to focus on safety.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report