WASHINGTON - Toyota Motor Corp. faces a maximum penalty of more than $16 million, a record civil penalty against an automaker, for failing to promptly notify the U.S. government about defective gas pedals among its vehicles.
Toyota 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.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said yesterday that documents obtained from the Japanese automaker showed that Toyota knew of the gas-pedal problem in late September but did not issue a recall until late January. "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."
For those reasons, LaHood said, the government is seeking a fine of $16.375 million, the maximum penalty possible. In 2004, General Motors paid a record $1 million fine for responding too slowly on a recall of nearly 600,000 vehicles over windshield-wiper failure.
Toyota officials did not immediately respond. The automaker has two weeks to accept or contest the penalty.