The US on Tuesday slapped a record $17.35 million fine on the world's biggest automaker, Toyota Motor Corporation, for "failing" to report safety defects to regulators within five days as required by federal law.
The US department of Transportation'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 Japanese automaker "failed to report a safety defect to the federal government in a timely manner."
"This action represents the single highest civil penalty amount ever paid to NHTSA for violations stemming from a recall," the US agency that monitors vehicle safety said in a statement.
"Safety is our highest priority," said US Transportation secretary Ray LaHood.
"With Tuesday’s announcement, I expect Toyota to rigorously reinforce its commitment to adhering to United States safety regulations."
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.
"It's critical to the safety of the driving public that manufacturers report safety defects in a timely manner," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.
In early 2012, NHTSA officials began noticing a trend in floor mat pedal entrapment in 2010 Lexus RX sports utility vehicles. 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 Tuesday's settlement, Toyota Motor Corporation and its US based subsidiaries agreed to make internal changes to their quality assurance and review of safety-related issues in the United States...," the NHTSA statement said. Commenting on the settlement, Ray Tanguay, chief quality officer of Toyota North America, Toyota has agreed to settle claims without admitting to any violation of its obligations under the US Safety Act.
"We agreed to this settlement in order to avoid a time-consuming dispute and to focus fully on our shared commitment with NHTSA to keep drivers safe," Tanguay said. 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.