Akio Toyoda, still working the shovel to extricate Toyota from the hole it's dug, invited U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for a factory visit. When he returned, LaHood said that the Toyota CEO didn't realize how much damage the company's reputation was taking until Toyoda actually came to America and saw for himself.

On the matter of further fines, LaHood would only say that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to finish sifting through 500,000 documents concerning the unintended acceleration recall. Until that's done, in "a couple months," he won't know if more fines should be recommended.

Toyota paid a $16.4 million fine last month and LaHood said that meant the company accepted responsibility. Toyota quickly replied that wasn't the case; rather, it paid the fine to put the issue to bed, which was the company's position from the beginning. Now, while the NHTSA keeps its head down reading memos and emails, Toyota has a couple of months to get consumers' attentions again and begin to deal with the nearly 200 lawsuits being brought against it.

[Source: Automotive News – Sub Req'd]