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More Fines Possible for Toyota

Apr 12, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

The  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering assessing Toyota more fines for the way it handled recalls involving faulty accelerator pedals and defective floor mats. Since last fall, Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for problems involving sudden acceleration related to these defects.

The NHTSA already 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.

The NHTSA told Toyota it was considering a additional  fines 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.

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