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Toyota Could Face Second Fine Following Disclosure of Documents

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, April 12, 2010 10:45 AM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Toyota, Unintended Acceleration, NHTSA, Sticking Gas Pedals, Recall, Prius, Tundra, Lexus, Highlander, Class-Action

Toyota may face another fine  following the disclosure of internal company documents.

What Did the Company Know and When?


IMAGE SOURCE: Toyota benefits Web site

The first fine imposed on automaker, Toyota, was announced last week.

$16.4 million - for not disclosing instances of unintended acceleration.

Now the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is considering a second penalty based on thousands of pages of internal Toyota documents.

The first fine was imposed on Toyota after a DOT review of 70,000 pages found the giant automaker “knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families.”

Those documents are being eyed as NHTSA issued a letter to Toyota on Friday indicating it might fine the company a second time for the delay in recalling over the sticky pedal.

Safety Deaf

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has repeatedly called Toyota “safety deaf.”

However, U.S. regulators may share some of the blame.

The nature of recalls in the U.S. is that federal regulators work cooperatively with automakers in a voluntary recall.

The bottom line is that both industry and regulators failed,” said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Representative Darrell Issa, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform tells the New York Times.

Included in the documents- a message from a Toyota executive that said, “I hate to break this to you, but we have a tendency for mechanical failure in accelerator pedals of a certain manufacturer on certain models.” The message was sent to group VP for Toyota Motor Sales USA, reports the New York Times.

That message by Irving Miller, a group vice president written in January said “The time to hide on this one is over. We need to come clean.”

EU vs US Recall

Consider how the recalls were conducted in the U.S, the EU and Canada.

In September, Toyota said it would conduct a floor mat recall. It issued an advisory, warning U.S. consumers that thick floor mats may depress pedals and lead to unintentional acceleration. Customers were told to remove the floor mats. By December, federal officials flew to Japan to urge the company to do something.

A recall for 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. wasn’t issued until January 21.

At the same time, Toyota told auto dealers in the EU it was redesigning the cars sold there and prepared dealers how to repair the sticking gas pedals. In Canada, the pedal shape was reconfigured and the floor of the car redesigned. Also some Canadian cars had the option of a brake override system.

The president and COO of Toyota US told Congress in February he didn’t know of the problems in Europe until January, but Toyota’s own records show engineers got the work about sticking pedals as far back as April 2009.

Nine million Toyota vehicles have been recalled worldwide, including more than six million domestically for unintended acceleration and some braking problems on hybrid vehicles.

NHTSA is looking at 50 deaths that may be blamed on the defective vehicles. At least 97 lawsuits have been filed against Toyota and 138 class actions from individual customers wanting to recoup their loss in the resale value of their Toyota.

Both IB partners, Hilliard Munoz Guerra LLP, Corpus Christi, Texas, and Beasley, Allen,Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C have filed lawsuits against Toyota. #

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