Toyota agrees to $32 mn fine in US safety probe

Toyota agrees to $32 mn fine in US safety probe

Washington: Toyota Motor Corp has agreed to pay $32.4 million in fines related to two investigations of the automaker’s handling of auto recalls for unintended acceleration linked to floor mats and steering problems in several models, US regulators said on Monday.

Also Read | Toyota recalls that led to record fines

The settlements, confirmed by Toyota, conclude a tumultuous year for the Japanese automaker in Washington over the recalls of millions of vehicles and disclosure of safety problems that prompted unprecedented government scrutiny, a previous fine, and a loss of prestige and consumer confidence in its best-selling brands.

“I am pleased that Toyota agreed to pay the maximum possible penalty and I expect Toyota to work cooperatively in the future to ensure consumer safety," transportation secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement that accompanied the late night announcement.

Toyota said it agreed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fines without admitting any violation of law.

“These agreements are an opportunity to turn the page to an even more constructive relationship with NHTSA and focus even more on listening to our customers and meeting their high expectations for safe and reliable vehicles," Steve St. Angelo, Toyota’s chief quality officer for North America, said in a statement.

Fatal crash

The two fines of more than $16 million each both involved recalls and allegations by the US government that initial action taken by Toyota to address safety problems earlier this decade was insufficient and the required notification of problems to regulators was not timely, as required by law.

The first investigation involved Toyota’s recall of all-weather floormats in 2007 that regulators said did not fully address complaints that they could jam the accelerator pedal.

A fatal crash in California two years later prompted two, larger, floormat recalls.

The second investigation involved several Toyota models with suspected steering problems. An initial recall was conducted in Japan in 2004 but US regulators were not notified until a year later that the problem was also found in several models sold in the United States.

“Automakers are required to report any safety defects to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration swiftly and we expect them to do so," agency administrator David Strickland said.

In April, Toyota agreed to pay a $16.4 million fine over allegations it failed to notify the government in a timely way about gas pedals that would not spring back as designed.