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U.S. Transportation Dept. seeks $16.4 million penalty against Toyota for recalls

The U.S. Transportation Department says it will seek $16.4 million, the maximum penalty, against Toyota for failing to promptly notify the government about defective acceleration pedals in its vehicles.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

The U.S. Transportation Department says it will seek $16.4 million, the maximum penalty, against Toyota for failing to promptly notify the government about defective acceleration pedals in its vehicles.

If successful, the fine amounts to the largest civil penalty ever issued by the Federal government to a carmaker.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the $16.375 penalty on Monday on behalf of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA.

LaHood said the potential risk of the "sticky pedals" of 2.3 million Toyota vehicles were known to the company for "at least four months" before the company notified the government.

Auto manufacturers are legally required to notify NHTSA within five business days if they determine that a safety defect exists. According to some 70,000 pages of documentation, Toyota knew of the sticky pedal defect since at least September 29, 2009.

From the NHTSA's statement:

That day, Toyota issued repair procedures to their distributors in 31 European countries and Canada to address complaints of sticky accelerator pedals, sudden increases in engine RPM, and sudden vehicle acceleration. The documents also show that Toyota was aware that consumers in the United States were experiencing the same problems.

"We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations," LaHood said in prepared remarks. "Worse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families. For those reasons, we are seeking the maximum penalty possible under current laws."

The department said it was still investigating the company for further violations.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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