As part of that process, Toyota now openly admits that it could have (and should have) done a better job of sharing relevant information, and it welcomes "a new, more transparent chapter" in its relationship with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additionally, the automaker has outlined a few of its next steps, citing that a new Chief Quality Officer has been appointed for North America and that it has strengthened its information-gathering capabilities in an effort to investigate potential problems with quicker response times. Still, Toyota denies that it withheld any pertinent information from NHTSA, saying, "We did not try to hide a defect to avoid dealing with a safety problem."
In response, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has issued the following statement regarding Toyota's decision:
The U.S. House of Representatives oversight panel plans to hold another hearing on May 6 to further investigate Toyota's conduct. What's more, remember that Toyota could be in more hot water regarding the ongoing investigation regarding the Lexus GX460 SUV, and there are still lingering questions about possible electronic gremlins in Toyota throttles to contend with. Still, it's good to see that an initial resolution has been reached between Toyota and NHTSA on this matter, though it is still possible that further fines will follow. Hit the jump to read the automaker's official release, as well as a statement from the U.S. Department of Transportation.By failing to report known safety problems as it is required to do under the law, Toyota put consumers at risk. I am pleased that Toyota has accepted responsibility for violating its legal obligations to report any defects promptly. We are continuing to investigate whether the company has lived up to all its disclosure obligations.
[Sources: Toyota, NHTSA, The Detroit News | Image: Ramin Talaie/Getty]
Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announced today that it has agreed to settle the civil penalty demanded in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's April 5 letter related to the company's recall for slow-to-return and sticky accelerator pedals by paying $16.4 million. The company said:
"We agreed to this settlement in order to avoid a protracted dispute and possible litigation, as well as to allow us to move forward fully-focused on the steps to strengthen our quality assurance operations. This will allow us to focus on delivering safe, reliable, high quality vehicles for our customers and responding to consumer feedback with honesty and integrity. These have been core Toyota values for 70 years, and we pledge to make an even greater effort to adhere to this philosophy now and in the future. We also welcome a new, more transparent chapter in our relationship with NHTSA, consistent with our commitments to Congress and the American people.
"We regret that NHTSA tentatively concluded that they should seek a civil penalty. Toyota denies NHTSA's allegation that it violated the Safety Act or its implementing regulations.
"We believe we made a good faith effort to investigate this condition and develop an appropriate counter-measure. We have acknowledged that we could have done a better job of sharing relevant information within our global operations and outside the company, but we did not try to hide a defect to avoid dealing with a safety problem."
"Toyota is already moving ahead with a number of important steps to strengthen our quality assurance operations and enhance our ability to meet customer expectations.
* We have strengthened our information-gathering capabilities to respond more quickly to customer concerns and investigate potential quality issues more aggressively.
* We've appointed a new Chief Quality Officer for North America, enlisted the help of respected independent experts to ensure our quality assurance processes are robust and given the region a bigger role in decision-making on safety issues for North America.
* Our dealers continue to make extraordinary efforts to repair recalled vehicles as quickly and conveniently as possible for our customers.
"We are proud of the vehicles that Toyota produces and are confident they are among the safest on the road. As our actions since this recall was announced underscore, we are intensely focused on listening even more carefully to our customers and addressing any issues that emerge without delay. All of us at Toyota are grateful for our customers' continued support, and we are determined to continue earning their trust."
Statement from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Toyota's Agreement to Pay Maximum Civil Penalty
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today made the following statement after Toyota Motor Corporation agreed to pay a $16.375 million fine – the largest fine permitted by law – for failing to notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of a dangerous pedal defect for almost four months: "By failing to report known safety problems as it is required to do under the law, Toyota put consumers at risk," said Secretary LaHood. "I am pleased that Toyota has accepted responsibility for violating its legal obligations to report any defects promptly. We are continuing to investigate whether the company has lived up to all its disclosure obligations." The $16.375 million fine for Toyota is the largest civil penalty ever assessed against an auto manufacturer by NHTSA. This penalty relates specifically to both the "sticky pedal" and "slow to return pedal" defects, which resulted in Toyota's recall of approximately 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. in late January. On February 16, NHTSA launched an investigation into the timeliness and scope of the three recent Toyota recalls and required the automaker to turn over documents and explanations related to its adherence to U.S. auto safety laws. NHTSA officials are continuing to review Toyota's statements and more than 120,000 pages of Toyota documents to determine whether the company has complied with all its legal obligations. NHTSA has the most active defect investigation program in the world, opening or closing an investigation almost every week. Over the last three years, NHTSA's defect and compliance investigations have resulted in 524 recalls involving 23.5 million vehicles.