WASHINGTON, December 18 (RIA Novosti) – The US Transportation Department announced Tuesday that the world’s biggest automaker, Toyota, has agreed to pay a record $17.4 million fine for failing to report safety defects in a timely manner.
“Safety is our highest priority,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. “With today’s announcement, I expect Toyota to rigorously reinforce its commitment to adhering to United States safety regulations.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Toyota failed to report acceleration problems in some of its luxury Lexus SUVs within five business days of discovering them, as required by US law.
The NHTSA said it began investigating Toyota’s 2010 Lexus Rx 350s and RX 450h models earlier this year after receiving complaints from consumers who reported incidents of floor mats trapping gas pedals causing the vehicles to speed up without warning.
In May, the NHTSA said it contacted Toyota about the problem, but it took the automaker a month to report the 63 incidents of floor mats trapping gas pedals, the statement said.
It took Toyota until June to announce plans to recall 154,036 of the Lexus RX models to fix the problem, transportation officials said.
“It’s critical to the safety of the driving public that manufacturers report safety defects in a timely manner,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “Every moment of delay has the potential to lead to deaths or injuries on our nation’s highways.”
Toyota said it agreed to pay the penalty without admitting any wrongdoing. The company also pledged to strengthen data collection and evaluation to make sure it takes action more quickly.
“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,” Ray Tanguay, Toyota’s chief quality officer, said in a statement.
This is Toyota’s fourth fine in the past two years over similar infractions. In 2010, Toyota paid a total of $48.8 million in fines for three violations.