Toyota says it will be paying out a record $17.35 million — the maximum fine allowably by law — after the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the company had delayed reporting a safety defect to the government. It’s the highest single civil penalty that’s ever been paid to the NHTS Afor violations that are a result of a recall.
“Safety is our highest priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood via a statement on the NHTSA’s site. “With today’s announcement, I expect Toyota to rigorously reinforce its commitment to adhering to United States safety regulations.”
All automakers are required to alert the NHTSA within five business days when they find a safety defect or ascertain that a vehicle isn’t in compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards, so a recall can be instituted quickly. But early this year, the NHTSA was noticing an uptick in floor mat pedal entrapments in questionnaires it sent to 2010 Lexus RX 350 owners.
By May, the NHTSA contacted Toyota, and the company replied a month later that it knew about 63 alleged incidents where possible floor mat pedal entrapment — where the gas pedal can get stuck in the floor mat and cause the car to accelerate and not stop — had happened since 2009. Oh, woopsies.
“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.”
In June, Toyota said it would conduct a recall of 154,036 Lexus RX and RX vehicles from 2010 to address the issue.
Besides paying the record fee, Toyota and its subsidiaries in the U.S. have agreed to make changes to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.