Toyota Pays NHTSA’s $16.4 Million Fine Over Accelerator Pedal Recall

Automakers have the right to appeal fines levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but Toyota won’t contest the $16.4 million fee recently assessed by the U.S. government for failing to alert officials of possible accelerator pedal issues in a timely fashion.

“Toyota has accepted responsibility for violating its legal obligations to report any defects promptly,” Ray La Hood, Secretary of Transportation, told Bloomberg in an emailed statement.

Toyota was assessed a $16.4 million fine by the NHTSA for failing to report potential problems within the allotted time period, which is approximately five business days after finding the defect. The administration fined Toyota the maximum penalty, which amounts to less than 2 percent of the company’s total income for the 2009 fiscal year.

“We agreed to this settlement in order to avoid a protracted dispute and possible litigation,” Toyota said in a statement issued this morning, “as well as to allow us to move forward fully-focused on the steps to deliver our quality assurance operations.

“We regret that NHTSA tentatively concluded that they should seek a civil penalty. Toyota denies NHTSA’s allegation that it violated the Safety Act or its implementing regulations. We believe we made a good faith effort to investigate this condition and develop an appropriate counter-measure.”

Had it not been for a statute limiting NHTSA to a maximum fine of $16.4 million, Toyota’s penalty could have been much higher. NHTSA is capable of fining the automaker nearly $6000 for each afflicted vehicle -- given the 2.3 million cars involved in the recall, the fine could have been as much as $13.8 billion.

The NHTSA says it is investigating additional penalties, however, as the accelerator pedal issue “had two separate defects that may require two separate remedies.”

Source: Bloomberg, Toyota

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