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Another day, another major story on Toyota's recent recall woes. As you may have already heard, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration – and particularly U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood – is less than pleased with the way Toyota has handled its various vehicle callbacks.

Now, NHTSA has made its public displeasure official with a press release indicating that it will "[use] its statutory authority to obtain documents from Toyota to determine if the automaker conducted three of its recent recalls in a timely manner." To what end? To determine "when and how it learned of the defects affecting approximately 6 million vehicles in the U.S. alone" and to be sure that there aren't any additional problems Toyota has yet to announce.

If the NHTSA finds that Toyota failed to deal with known safety issues in a timely manner, it could find the Japanese automaker liable for a maximum of $16.4 million in civil penalties. Granted, that's a pretty small dollar amount for such a large company, but it could spearhead the already rising tide of negative press and keep the issue fresh in the public's mind for some time to come. Click past the break for the official press release.


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[Source: NHTSA]
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NHTSA Launches Probe into Timeliness of Three Toyota Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today announced that it is using its statutory authority to obtain documents from Toyota to determine if the automaker conducted three of its recent recalls in a timely manner. Federal law requires all auto manufacturers to notify NHTSA within five days of determining that a safety defect exists and promptly conduct a recall.

"Safety recalls are very serious matters and automakers are required to quickly report defects," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The auto safety agency is requiring Toyota to provide documents showing when and how it learned of the defects affecting approximately 6 million vehicles in the U.S. alone. The probe will examine how the manufacturer learned of these defects, such as through consumer complaints or factory testing. Investigators are also looking into whether Toyota discovered the problems during pre-production or post-production of the affected vehicles.

Officials are checking whether Toyota has covered all affected models in its recent recalls to ensure Toyota did not miss any problems. The agency will obtain information on production data, incidents, complaints, warranty complaints, copies of tests, dates of meetings, timelines, and supplier information.

The three recalls in question involve various Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Two of the recalls are related to the entrapment of gas pedals by floor mats. The first recall was announced on September 26, 2007 and was followed by a subsequent one on October 6, 2009. The October recall was expanded on January 29, 2010 to include additional vehicles. The third recall, involving sticking gas pedals, was announced on January 21, 2010. Please go to http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/ for more information.

"Our top priority is safety and we expect that all manufacturers address automotive safety issues quickly and in a forthright manner," said David Strickland, Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA has the authority to seek civil penalties for a variety of violations by manufacturers, equipment suppliers, registered importers and vehicle customizers. If agency officials determine that an auto manufacturer violated its statutory obligations, the manufacturer could be liable for a maximum of $16.4 million in civil penalties.


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  • 32 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Spearhead is right. Finally putting an official, albeit light hand, spanking on Toyota will make it "official" in the minds of many Americans who may be on the fence of whether this is really an issue or not. I don't see a way for Toyota to spin its way out of this, when they've already had their president on TV making claims about when they knew. It will be a PR disaster of fantastic proportions.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just never trust American politicians, they have lied to the public so many times and even when they have been proven wrong nothing happens because they own the media network so nothing gets published! The attack on Toyota is disgraceful, they are the only company to not lay off workers during the recession (apart from Nummi) and it turns out that now they will be laying off workers thanks to NHTSA (aka US government). If they think that destroying the Japanese giant will help increase revenue of sales in American cars they are wrong as Toyota will not pay as much TAX to the government due to less workers less sales etc. The government losses out in the long term.

      Take a step back and look at who gains from this and you will see what is really going on. I mean Toyota have not even properly investigated the claims but they have already apologized to the public, started the mass recall etc. But instead of being praised by taking action so quickly they are still getting attacked about something new everyday, doesn't anyone think that is a bit dodgy? Yes, and when they say that Toyota knew this defect months/years ago, all I can say is 'where is the evidence?'. Too much bull sh*t gets aired from the US media network (WMD's, Kennedy assassination, fake space landing etc) its up to the people what to believe.

      • 5 Years Ago
      I find it interesting that Toyota closed down it's only Union factory in the US - Muni in NoCal - and now they are being attacked "Chicago-style" by Obama-nation as though they are the only auto manufacturer who has recalls and who has accidental death claims. I am not excusing Toyota if their actions are wrongful, but to my eyes and in IHO, this looks like payback for blowing off the auto union and is the most outrageous form of thuggery I have even seen exhibited by the United States Government. Shameful.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Interesting point of view. So you think all this was bought on by them shutting down NUMMI? That if the plant was still open, the government would leave Toyota alone, as in free to sell you defective car and offer no recall or recourse or repair?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I meant to write: GM products should not affect.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Someone also posted an article here that claimed that Toyota may be the only manufacturer to have hired ex NHTSA officials, or at least that GM, Ford, Chyrsler and Honda denied having ex NHTSA officials on payroll. So I find that a telling symptom of Toyota's graft, not evidence of the government's overzealous behavior in going after them. There was a big to do about Ford and Firestone. There was a big deal about the exploding GM trucks. This time its different. This time a manufacturer is on the hot seat about covering up the evidence. If they literally had just had a whole bunch of recalls and were uninformed or unaware of the defects or complaints, then I am confident in saying this (the probes and hearings) would not be happening.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Not quite so simplistic. I think it is "interesting" that the government has gone WAYout of the norm to attack just Toyota in public hearings, as opposed to any other manufacturer that has any number of recalls, unintended death claims, issues, etc. Why attack just Toyota? Another interesting fact is that many of those working with the NHTSA to pursue Toyota were once employed by the manufacturer. Autoblog ran a thread on this. All I'm saying is, it is very "interesting".
        • 5 Years Ago
        Agreed about MUNI, but the protesters and the Union demanded that Toyota keep it open, and they did not. Payback? I'm not certain, but something just smells rotten about this entire situation. I've got a feeling there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye and am seriously wondering if any of this would be happening this way and to the extent it is if Toyota had agreed to keep the Union plant open. I don't want to say it, but once again the Obama admin has done nothing but destroy more jobs for Americans - Toyota is now idling two plants here in the states. No don't get all hate on me. This is just me offering up thoughts for discussion. Something about all of this just isn't adding up.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The goal of a business is to create profits. If Toyota could build it cheaper elsewhere, then they should have closed the plant. The savings can get passed on in terms of less expensive cars, eventually.

        The plant is no longer serving the goals that Toyota had planned for it. Close it down. End of story.
        • 5 Years Ago
        the reason the plant is closing is that GM no longer makes the vibe so Toyota was unable to keep the plant open only producing the matrix. So they opted to close the plant. This all went down during the GM restructuring.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Tikki,

        According to NUMMI it never made the Matrix there, ever. So, please don't blame (or imply) the shut down essentially on GM.

        http://www.nummi.com/vehicles.php

        Toyota still makes Corollas and Tacomas, right? So, GM products should affect the factory as much as you seem to think.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Toyota is non-union shop. Berry is all about unions. So much so, the union fats received more than the secured creditors, when Berry helped Chrysler through an expedited bankruptcy. So now the, we love auto and teacher union administration, is raking the non-union Toyota over the coals. It is starting to smell. Not since the press and move against SUVs have we seen such. It is about unions and believe me Toyota understands that and can close plants.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Then they will have all the governors and senators of right to work states that house Toyota plants and paid off lobbyists rush to their aid. Its not going to be a complete one sided affair as you think it will be. Nothing in Washington ever is.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What a circus.
      • 5 Years Ago
      $16.4 for ignoring issues that have lead to several dozen deaths? That's all?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm not a lawyer, but I would guess that a finding by the federal govt that led to a fine like that would be admissable evidence in a civil suit. While the official fines might seem puny, the civil damages will most likely be quite large.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well, this would then open the door for all sorts of criminal and civil suits that would give you the "justice" I think you are looking for. Its not the government's job to punish them for that, in this way. It would have to go through the courts.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ed Wallace has an interesting POV in Business Week: http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/feb2010/bw20100211_986136.htm
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wait so let me get this straight. The NHTSA which is rumored to of been in bed with Toyota about this pedal issue is now calling out Toyota and saying they'll be investigating them. Now is it just me or does this seem a bit well strange?

      If anything the Government should hire a outside firm to investigate both Toyota and the NHTSA to find out what exactly happened and why something was not done sooner.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree, but I think in this case either the NHTSA will sell out Toyota to cover its own butt, or this probe won't run up anything except some wishy washy conclusion that Toyota knew it may have a problem, but nothing to cause it to change the way it does business and thus no fine will be levied.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That picture is worth a thousand words. Or 16.4 million dollars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        He looks like one of those mobsters on The Untouchables.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is so much like the novel Animal Farm.

      Toyota was "portrayed" as such a noble company and they are just as bad as GM or Ford were when they were the main players years ago and did a lots of bad things -- and largely got away with it.

      Toyota will get a small fine, and will be back to business as usual in a couple months. The pigs have taken over the "show" there (that is what happened in Animal Farm).
        • 5 Years Ago
        Animal Farm was about communism/Stalinism.

        Who are these "pigs" and what are they taking over in the Toyota scenario?
      • 5 Years Ago
      big government needs to stop sticking its nose into everything. the free market will sort it out.
        • 5 Years Ago
        In this case, the 'free market' is exactly what led Toyota to throw their customers under a speeding bus (sometimes literally) for more profits. And allowed them to buy off NHTSA investigators to avoid the bad press for a while.

        Enjoy your dream for unregulated, unsafe automobiles. The free-market system isn't exactly keen to investing more money on safety...
        • 5 Years Ago
        free market? what are you, 13? do you believe in the easter bunny too?
      • 5 Years Ago
      This Toyota stuff is getting out of control... Everyone is all up in arms over a pair of Toyota recalls, yet the '98 Ford Contour had 12 separate recalls and no one cared (go look it up on http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls ) and Honda just recalled 379,000 vehicles a few days ago, but thats not front page news either.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Excellent point. Lets explore that 379,000 vehicle Honda recall. The issue: " The drivers airbag inflator could produce excessive internal pressure. If an affected airbag deploys, the increased internal pressure may cause the inflator to rupture.
        Metal fragments could pass through the airbag cushion material possibly causing injury or fatality to vehicle occupants. "

        Sure sounds potentially deadly to me! And for the numbers, there is about 34 reported fatalities in the Toyota recall. 34 / 8mil = .000425%. In this potentially deadly Honda airbag issue, it would only take 1.6 deaths to meet the Toyota recall's fatality rate.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Your "argument" assumes that all recalls are create equal. They are not. Some are minor issues, some kill people. Guess which one this is ?
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