Toyota accepts huge penality, raising investigation record fine total to nearly $49 million

James Raia

Toyota Motor Corp. has agreed to pay the government an additional $32.4 million, increasing the carmaker’s record fines to nearly $49 million as settlement  into safety investigation into more than 11 million of its cars.

The Transportation Department announced the latest civil penalties in the two major issues — stuck accelerator pedals that could get trapped in floor mats, and steering relay rods that could break and lead to drivers losing control.

Toyota has already paid a $16.4 million fine in a relate case, bringing the total penalties levied on the company to $48.8 million.

Toyota has recalled more than 11 million vehicles globally since the fall of 2009. The company agreed to the penalties without admitting to any violations of U.S. laws. Toyota can also face potential civil and criminal penalties in private lawsuits and other federal investigations.

Toyota agreed in April to pay the maximum fine allowed under law for a single case —  $16.4 million — for failing to promptly alert U.S. regulators to safety problems over sticking accelerator pedals.

Under federal law, automakers must notify NHTSA within five days of determining that a safety defect exists and promptly conduct a recall. At the time, Toyota denied attempting to hide a safety defect and said it agreed to the penalty to avoid a lengthy legal battle with the government.

The latest fines involve two separate safety problems affecting certain Toyota passenger cars and trucks. The Japanese automaker faces dozens of lawsuits from families of people killed or injured in crashes linked to unintended acceleration.

The government’s safety agency has received about 3,000 reports of sudden acceleration incidents involving Toyota vehicles during the past decade, including 93 deaths. NHTSA, however, has confirmed only the four deaths from the California crash.

Before Toyota’s recall crisis, the largest automaker fine was $1 million paid by General Motors in 2004 for a slow response to a recall of nearly 600,000 vehicles with faulty windshield wipers.

Article Last Updated: December 20, 2010.

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