Toyota Motor Corp. has been fined the maximum penalty allowed under US law for the timing and handling of its vehicle recalls from years past.
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US Department of Transport secretary, Ray LaHood, today revealed Toyota had agreed to pay two fines totaling $US32.4 million ($32.6 million) for failing to comply with the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act by reporting defects to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

"I am pleased that Toyota agreed to pay the maximum possible penalty and I expect Toyota to work cooperatively in the future to ensure consumers' safety," Mr LaHood said."Safety is our top priority and we take our responsibility to protect consumers seriously.”

The fines are in addition to $US16.4 million ($16.5 million) that Toyota paid to settle a similar violation earlier this year, and take the total to $US48.8 million ($49 million) so far.

Today’s fines related to a floor mat-related unintended acceleration recall from 2007 and the 2004-2005 recalls of selected light trucks over alleged loss of steering control.

Interestingly, Toyota did not admit to violating federal safety requirements, despite agreeing to the settlements.

Toyota North America’s chief quality control officer, Steve St. Angelo, said the agreements represented an opportunity for Toyota to develop a more constructive relationship with the NHTSA and focus more on listening to customers and meeting their expectations for safe and reliable vehicles.

"Toyota is pleased to have resolved these legacy issues related to the timeliness of prior recalls dating back to 2005,” Mr St. Angelo said.“All 30,000 of our US team members, and the tens of thousands of Americans at dealers and suppliers across the country, have worked very hard over the past year to put these issues behind us and set a new standard of responsiveness to our customers."As we have demonstrated in recent months, our North American operations now have a greater voice in making safety decisions, and we are taking appropriate action whenever any issues emerge."

Automotive News is reporting that Toyota could face a further related fine, with an investigation currently looking into the corporation’s handling of four recalls between 2007 and 2010 for cases of unintended acceleration.

Before Toyota’s three fines of around $16 million each, the largest penalty for a similar offence in the US was handed down to General Motors, who paid just $1 million in relation to a windscreen wiper defect in 2002-2003 model year vehicles.