Toyota Could Face More Fines Over Unintended Acceleration Recalls

Toyota could be facing another fine from U.S. regulators for delaying a recall over faulty accelerator pedals. This would be in addition to the $16.375 million penalty the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed earlier this month.

Since last fall, Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for problems involving sudden acceleration. Toyota has blamed the speed control issues on defective floor mats and faulty gas pedals. In the U.S., five deaths have occurred in auto accidents involving the unintended acceleration of a Toyota or Lexus vehicle. Last August, a California Highway Patrol trooper and three members of his family were killed in such a crash in San Diego County, just south of Orange. Dozens of other fatalities over the past decade alleged to be the result of Toyota unintended acceleration crashes are currently being investigated by the NHTSA.

The NHTSA told Toyota it was considering a second fine in the April 5 letter the agency sent the company notifying it of the initial $16.375 million penalty. According to The New York Times, the letter said documents submitted to the NHTSA by Toyota indicated there were two separate defects in recalled accelerator pedals. Two investigations into a November recall, involving floor mats that could trap the accelerator pedal, also could also result in fines, the Times said.

The NHTSA announced last week that it would seek $16.375 million -the maximum penalty allowed by law – from Toyota for failing to promptly notify the government about the pedal issues. Automakers are legally obligated to tell U.S. safety regulators within five days if they determine a safety defect exists.

According to a Department of Transportation press release, the NHTSA learned through documents obtained from Toyota that the company knew of the sticky pedal defect since at least September 29, 2009. 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 U.S. were experiencing the same problems, the statement said.

Toyota could contest the NHTSA fine, but the April 5 letter from the agency said the matter would be referred to the Department of Justice if it did so.

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