Toyota Motor
(TM) will pay a fine of $16.4 million in 30 days to the U.S. government for a deliberate delay in recalling vehicles with sticking accelerator gas pedal defects. Under the federal law, the manufacturers are legally obligated to notify the U.S. safety regulators within 5 business days if they come to know of a safety defect in their vehicles.
In late January this year, Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles to correct sticking accelerator pedals on specific Toyota Division models. The automaker has noticed sticking accelerator pedal mechanisms in certain vehicles in the absence of floor mats.
The models affected in the recall were RAV4 crossover (2009–2010), Corolla (2009–2010), Matrix (2009–2010), Avalon (2005–2010), Camry (2007–2010), Highlander (2010), Tundra (2007–2010) and Sequoia (2008–2010).
So far, the automaker has recalled more than 8.5 million vehicles from around the world related to problems such as faulty accelerator gas pedals, slipping floor mats and defective braking systems. The recall included popular models such as the 2010 Prius hybrid and Toyota Camry.
According to the Transportation Department officials, the $16.4 million fine is the highest-ever imposed on an automaker due to an alleged violation of U.S. vehicle safety laws. The officials have not ruled out additional fines, as the investigation on Toyota will continue.
However, Toyota would sign an agreement by paying the fine that would relieve it from any legal proceedings by the government that it deliberately hid defects from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is, in fact, a standard procedure in these cases.
Nevertheless, Toyota faces numerous personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in federal courts. The value of claims under the lawsuits has been estimated to reach about $4 billion, reflecting an average loss of $600 per vehicle. Thus, merely paying the government fine would not help the automaker to save its tarnished reputation.
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