Having already paid record fines for not promptly recalling cars, Toyota Motor Corp. will pay the government another $17.35 million to safety regulators.
The fine announced Tuesday is for not promptly recalling Lexus RX 350s and RX 450h sport-utility vehicles because a floor mat could jam the gas pedal, causing the car to accelerate when the driver didn’t intend to.
“It’s critical to the safety of the driving public that manufacturers report safety defects in a timely manner,” said David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Every moment of delay has the potential to lead to deaths or injuries on our nation’s highways.”
Federal law requires all auto manufacturers to notify NHTSA within five business days of determining that a safety defect exists or that the vehicle is not in compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards and to promptly conduct a recall.
“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,” said Ray Tanguay, chief quality officer of Toyota North America.
Two years ago, Toyota paid a record $48.8 million in fines as a result of three separate investigations into the automaker’s handling of auto recalls for similar pedal entrapment problems in other vehicles, sticky gas pedals and steering relay rod problems.
This week’s fine resulted from a probe launched earlier this year when NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation began noticing a trend in floor mat pedal entrapment in 2010 Lexus RX 350s. Safety regulators asked Toyota about the problem in May and were told by the automaker of 63 alleged incidents of possible floor mat pedal entrapment in 2010 Lexus RX 350s dating back to 2009.
But it was not until June that Toyota announced a recall of 154,036 2010 Lexus RX 350 and 2010 RX 450h vehicles to address floor mat pedal entrapment.