Faced with the prospect of a protracted legal battle and even greater potential financial penalties, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announced it will pay the $16.4375-million civil penalty levied against it by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The fine, the largest NHTSA could demand, came as the result of the automaker's delay in advising the government about issues with sticky and slow-to-return accelerator pedals in a number of its vehicles.
According to the TMC statement, the company felt this was the most productive way to move forward on resolving the matter and to focus on delivering safe, reliable, high quality vehicles to its customers. However, it also denied any wrongdoing. "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."
In related news, Toyota has issued voluntary recalls on two more vehicles, the 1998-2010 Toyota Sienna Minivan and the Lexus GX 460. The Sienna recall is being done to address a potential problem with corrosion on the vehicle's spare-tire carrier cable. According to Toyota, Siennas operated in colder climates where road salt is used in winter could see the cable weaken and possibly break, causing the spare to separate from the vehicle and become a road hazard. This recall directly applies to approximately 600,000 of these popular people haulers that were sold in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia as well as the District of Columbia. Toyota is currently working on a permanent fix for the problem, but is asking owners to take their vehicles to a Toyota dealer for a free inspection and repair if necessary, a process expected to take about 30 minutes.
Toyota also decided to issue a voluntary recall for the 2010 Lexus GX 460 to address an issue with its vehicle stability control (VSC) system, a problem that recently led Consumer Reports magazine to issue a rare "Don't Buy: Safety Risk" warning. Toyota plans to recall all of the approximately 9,400 GX 460s sold to date to update the VSC software. The automaker says that all Lexus dealers will have the softeware update by the end of April, and that owners will be asked to make an appointment to bring in their vehicles as soon as possible to have this fix implemented. The upgrade should take about an hour, and full details are available through Lexus Customer Satisfaction at 1-800-25 LEXUS or 1-800-255-3987 or at www.lexus.com/recall.