Toyota Pays $16.4 Million Fine But Says It Acted in Good Faith

April 19, 2010

Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday it will pay a record $16.4 million fine to U.S. safety regulators to settle a complaint that the company delayed a recall over defective accelerator pedals.

Toyota, however, said it made a “good faith” effort to investigate safety issues and denied that it had violated U.S. regulations.

The automaker said it agreed to pay the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) fine — the maximum allowed by U.S. law and the largest the regulator has ever sought — “to avoid a protracted dispute and possible litigation.”

“We did not try to hide a defect to avoid dealing with a safety problem,” Toyota said in a statement.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Toyota put consumers at risk by failing to report safety problems related to the defective accelerator pedals.

“I am pleased that Toyota has accepted responsibility for violating its legal obligations to report any defects promptly,” LaHood said in a statement.

Toyota’s fine related specifically to U.S. safety regulator’s allegations that the automaker failed to notify NHTSA for four months about a defect in accelerator pedals that were “sticky” and “slow to return.”

U.S. safety regulators continue to review Toyota’s statements and more than 120,000 pages of Toyota documents to determine whether the automaker has complied with all its legal obligations, the department said in a statement.

The settlement on the civil penalty is the latest development in a safety crisis that has tarnished Toyota’s reputation and forced it to compete aggressively on pricing to win back sales in the U.S. market.

But Toyota still faces numerous lawsuits alleging consumer fraud and personal injuries over unintended acceleration in its vehicles. The company’s handling of safety issues is also under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and a grand jury in New York.

Some lawyers estimate Toyota faces potential civil liability of more than $10 billion in U.S. courts.

(Additional reporting by John Crawley in Washington and David Bailey in Detroit; Editing by Derek Caney)

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