* Fine highest ever for delay in reporting a recall
* Fine related to June recall of Lexus vehicles
* Toyota agrees to settlement without admitting violation
Dec 18 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp has agreed to
a record fine of $17.35 million for failing to report a safety
defect to the U.S. government in a timely manner, but maintained
it has done nothing wrong.
Toyota announced a recall of 154,036 2010 Lexus RX 350 and
RX 450h vehicles in June to address a risk that a loose floormat
could force down the accelerator pedal.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said the fine was the
highest ever for not initiating a recall in a timely manner. ()
This year's recall followed a string of damaging safety
recalls from Toyota, the world's top automaker, since 2009.
Certain unintended acceleration claims made against some
models caused a worldwide recall of nearly 19 million vehicles
from late 2009 to early 2011.
Toyota in a statement said it agreed to the settlement
without admitting any violation of its U.S. safety obligations.
"We agreed to this settlement in order to avoid a
time-consuming dispute and to focus fully on our shared
commitment with NHTSA to keep drivers safe," Ray Tanguay, chief
quality officer of Toyota North America, said in a statement. ()
The Department of Transport's National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it contacted Toyota in May
after it noticed a trend of "floor mat pedal entrapments" in
vehicle owner questionnaires.
Toyota advised the safety agency a month later that it was
aware of 63 alleged incidents and said it would launch the
Federal law requires automakers to notify the agency within
five business days of determining that a safety defect exists
and to conduct a recall.
"Every moment of delay has the potential to lead to deaths
or injuries on our nation's highways," said David Strickland,
the Administrator of the highway safety agency.
The penalties come a month after Toyota said it would recall
about 2.77 million vehicles worldwide, including some of its
popular Prius hybrid cars, for steering and water pump problems.
The carmaker was fined a total of $48.8 million in civil
penalties in 2010 as a result of three separate investigations
into its handling of vehicle recalls.
Analysts said Tuesday's NHTSA fine would not have any
significant impact on demand.
"Consumers tend to gloss over these events. A lot of the
decision-making is based on products in the showroom, and in
that respect, Toyota is very competitive," Polk analyst Tom
Matthew Stover, an analyst with Guggenheim Securities, said
there would be minimal financial impact from the penalties.
"Recalls in general don't have an impact on sales like they
used to," Stover said.
Toyota maintained from the start of its worst safety crisis
ever that the floor mat pedal entrapment issue was linked to
floormats pinning gas pedals down rather than a systemic
Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in
early 2011 a federal probe essentially agreed with the company's
The U.S. auto safety regulators in April this year announced
a proposal that would require brake override systems -- that can
stop a vehicle if the accelerator pedal gets stuck open -- on
all new passenger cars and trucks, likely by the 2015 model