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xcel 12-18-2012 11:35 PM

Old News Now but Toyota Handcuffed With Record $17.35 Million Fine
The civil penalty was imposed for alleged violations of Federal Law.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Dec. 18, 2012

The embattled automaker is climbing back and sometime in 2013 will probably outsell Ford. This news however is not helping their bottom line.

The DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that Toyota has agreed to pay $17.35 million, the maximum fine allowable under the law, in response to the agency's assertion that the automaker failed to report the pedal entrapment safety defect to the federal government in the required allotted time. This represents the single highest civil penalty $ amount ever paid to NHTSA for violations stemming from a recall.

Federal law requires all auto manufacturers to notify NHTSA within five business days of determining that a safety defect exists or that the vehicle is not in compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards and to promptly conduct a recall.

In early 2012, NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation began noticing a trend in floor mat pedal entrapment in 2010 Lexus RX 350s in Vehicle Owner Questionnaires (VOQs) and Early Warning Reporting data. In May, NHTSA contacted Toyota regarding the trend, and a month later Toyota advised NHTSA that it was aware of 63 alleged incidents of possible floor mat pedal entrapment in Model Year 2010 Lexus RX 350s since 2009. Toyota's own technicians and dealer technicians reported that certain alleged incidents of unwanted acceleration had been caused by floor mat pedal entrapment.

In June, Toyota advised NHTSA that it would conduct a recall of 154,036 Model Year 2010 Lexus RX 350 and Model Year 2010 RX 450h vehicles to address floor mat pedal entrapment.

As part of the settlement, NHTSA stated the following:

“Toyota and its U.S. based subsidiaries have agreed to make internal changes to their quality assurance and review of safety-related issues in the United States, and to improve their ability to take into account the possible consequences of potential safety-related defects.”
According to the Government safety organization, the last time Toyota faced civil penalties was in 2010 when the automaker agreed to pay $48.8 million as a result of three separate investigations into the automaker's handling of auto recalls. The automaker paid maximum civil penalties for violations stemming from the pedal entrapment, sticky pedal and steering relay rod recalls.

Ray Tanguay, Chief Quality Officer of Toyota North America:

“Toyota is dedicated to safety, and we continue to strengthen our data collection and evaluation process tin order to take swift action to meet customers' needs.”
Fortunately Toyota has the wherewithal to pay this large a fine without harming its automobile progress going forward but the brand reputation continues to be dragged through the wringer and that may cost it even more in the long run.

If there were ever a company concerned about safety, Toyota is near the top of the charts. And with the new found safety focus that began back in late 2009, they are only getting better which in turn improves other automakers safety focus as well. Case in point, check the mat anchors in “any” new car today. This is not your father’s slap in the mats and let’s goes for a ride automobile anymore…

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