Toyota already paid a record $16.4 million in fines to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but officials within the U.S. Department of Transportation note the automaker could be subject to additional penalties.
“We will continue our review of documents presented to us,” Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, noted at a recent press conference held at Toyota’s global headquarters in Toyota City, Japan. “If a fine is required, I think everyone recognizes now that safety is our number one priority. When we have recommendations to make, we will make them.”
The first penalty, totaling $16.4 million, penalized Toyota for failing to properly report defects tied to unintended acceleration. Toyota denied the NHTSA’s claim, but reportedly paid the fine to “avoid a protracted dispute.” NHTSA is still reviewing some 500,000 corporate documents turned over to the agency, and has yet to determine if the company is subject to additional penalties.
Toyota has pledged to improve both vehicle quality and communication policies, especially with regulatory bodies like the NHTSA. During his visit to the corporate headquarters, LaHood seemed impressed by the company’s new directives, championed in part by CEO Akio Toyoda.
“I believe that they have put in place some measures that will enable us at the Department of Transportation to have a better handle…a better form of information, if they’re carried out,” LaHood said. “And what I told Mr. Toyoda today, these measures are important measures, but I use the American colloquialism: The proof is in the pudding.”
LaHood added that only “time will tell” if Toyota’s new efforts are effective.