This summer, we brought you news that Lexus was recalling over 150,000 RX and RX hybrid crossovers tied to its massive pedal entrapment issue. An update to that story included word from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it was considering launching a federal investigation into potential delays by the automaker in notifying owners about the problem. Now comes news that parent company Toyota will pay a hefty $17.35 million in fines for delaying its recall of the 2010 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h. According to The Detroit News, the Japanese automaker is being forced to pay the maximum fine for delaying recalls – and this isn't the first time. In fact, this is the fourth time since 2010 that Toyota has been required to do so, including paying $48.8M in civil penalties in 2010 for failing to recall vehicles in a timely manner – in three separate campaigns.
In addition to the fines, Toyota has agreed to restructure the way it handles quality control and review "safety-related issues." Though the Japanese automaker has not admitted any wrongdoing, Toyota has agreed to meet with NHTSA for six months on the matter and may extend the meetings another six months.
US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he is counting on Toyota to improve its ability to address such safety issues: "With today's announcement, I expect Toyota to rigorously reinforce its commitment to adhering to the United States safety regulations," he said in a statement.
According to the report, Toyota has recalled more vehicles than any other automaker so far this year – 5.3 million in 13 separate campaigns – putting it about two million units ahead of second-place Honda.
This latest fine is a drop in the bucket compared to Toyota's expected global profits of $9.7 billion by the end of March, 2013. That said, Congress has already agreed to a new fine that will push the maximum penalty for delayed recalls up to $35 million. This increase will take effect in 2013.