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DATE News (chronologically)
04/05/10
automotive
Feds seek $16.4M fine against Toyota
Federal regulators want to impose a $16.4 million civil fine against Toyota Motor Corp. for failing to notify the auto safety agency of the dangerous "sticky pedal" defect for at least four months, despite knowing of the potential risk to consumers.

The penalty is the maximum the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can levy under federal law -- and would be the largest NHTSA has ever imposed against an auto manufacturer. It also reflects a new far more aggressive stance by the safety agency.

Approximately 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. were recalled in January for the sticky pedal defect. Toyota separately has recalled 5.4 million vehicles over pedal entrapment issues -- though some vehicles are impacted by both.

Auto manufacturers are legally obligated to notify NHTSA within five business days if they determine that a safety defect exists. NHTSA said it learned through documents obtained from Toyota that the company knew of the sticky pedal defect since at least Sept. 29, 2009, the agency said.

That day, Toyota issued repair procedures to its distributors in 31 European countries and Canada to address complaints of sticky accelerator pedals, sudden increases in engine revolutions, and sudden vehicle acceleration. The documents also show that Toyota was aware that consumers in the United States were experiencing the same problems, the agency said.

Toyota didn't immediately respond to a request seeking comment. The automaker has two weeks to decide whether to accept or contest the fine. NHTSA will go to court to enforce the penalty to Toyota contests the fine.

"We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Worse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families. For those reasons, we are seeking the maximum penalty possible under current laws." Detroit News

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