Toyota Motor Corp. "knowingly hid a dangerous defect" that caused its vehicles to accelerate unexpectedly, the U.S. said, for the first time accusing the world’s largest automaker of breaking the law.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed a record civil penalty of $16.4 million, the most the government can impose. The fine recommended yesterday escalates the confrontation between Toyota and LaHood, who initially praised the carmaker for its handling of recalls the company attributed to faulty accelerator pedals, Business Week reported.
Toyota Motor Corp. has recalled more than 6 million vehicles in the U.S., and more than 8 million worldwide, because of acceleration problems in multiple models and braking issues in the Prius hybrid.
In announcing the proposed fine, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said documents obtained from the automaker show that Toyota knew of the problem with the sticking gas pedals in late September but did not issue a recall until late January. The sticking pedals involved 2.3 million vehicles.
"We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations," LaHood said in a statement. "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," The Associated Press reported.
In a statement, US transportation secretary Ray LaHood confirmed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is seeking $16.375m – the maximum civil penalty.
The NHTSA said documents obtained from Toyota showed the company had been aware of the accelerator problem since 29 September 2009, when it issued repair procedures to distributors across 31 European countries and Canada. Toyota issued a recall of 2.3m vehicles in the US, but not until late January, The Guardian informs today.