For the fourth time since 2010, Toyota has been fined the maximum penalty for delaying recalls.
On Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it has slapped Toyota with a record $17.35 million (€13.15 million at today's exchange rates) fine for failing to report a safety defect to address floor mat pedal entrapment in the 2010 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h in a timely manner.
In May this year, NHTSA contacted Toyota regarding a trend in floor mats trapping the gas pedal on said models, but it took the Japanese carmaker a month to tell the safety agency that it was aware of 63 alleged incidents. In June, Toyota went ahead and recalled around 154,000 examples of its RX models to fix the problem.
The fine is the maximum allowed by law and largest single of its kind ever to be imposed against an automaker for a safety defect.
Since 2010, the Japanese carmaker has paid a total of $66.15 million (€50.17 million) for failing to recall vehicles in a timely manner, in four separate investigations, including the one announced today.
Toyota issued a statement saying it will pay the fine to settle claims to the timeliness of its June 2012 recall on the Lexus RX, but said it will do so "without admitting to any violation of its obligations under the U.S. Safety Act".
Ray Tanguay, chief quality officer of Toyota North America, stated:
“Toyota is dedicated to the safety of our customers, and we continue to strengthen our data collection and evaluation process to ensure we are prepared to take swift action to meet customers' needs. 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.”
In addition to the fine, Toyota also agreed to make internal changes to their quality assurance and review of safety-related issues in the United States.
"With today’s announcement, I expect Toyota to rigorously reinforce its commitment to adhering to United States safety regulations," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
"It's critical to the safety of the driving public that manufacturers report safety defects in a timely manner," commented NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "Every moment of delay has the potential to lead to deaths or injuries on our nation’s highways."