Delay in Toyota Accelerator Recall Leads to $17.35 Million Fine

Toyota hit with maximum fine by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for delaying the Toyota accelerator recall of 154,036 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h SUVs, over possible gas petal, floor mat entrapment.

Cochran-Ohio-Toyota-Accelerator-Recall-FineLast month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hit Toyota Motors Corp with a $17.35 million fine for their failure to initiate a Toyota accelerator recall of more than 150,000 model year 2010 Lexus RX 350 and Lexus RX 450h sport-utility vehicles after issues with floor mats became apparent in 2009, the LA Times reports. Not only does the delay cost Toyota in fines, it could potentially lead to Toyota Accelerator Recall Lawsuits due to personal injuries from potential motor vehicle accidents.

According to federal regulations, NHTSA is to be informed of any and all vehicular safety defects within five days of their discovery, and safety recalls are to be promptly issued, something Toyota neglected to do until NHTSA began its investigations. By the time NHTSA got involved in May 2012, 63 alleged incidents had been reported of the gas pedal becoming entrapped by the floor mat. Still, Toyota did not initiate the Toyota accelerator recall until June, the Post-Tribune reported.

The fine comes after Toyota had to pay nearly $50 million in fines imposed by federal safety regulators for how the company dealt with sticky gas pedal, gas pedal entrapment, and steering issues. In one of the most noted cases, a Lexus floor mat trapped the gas pedal of California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor, causing the vehicle to speed out of control, crash, and kill Saylor and three members of his family in August 2009. Toyota later recalled 3.8 million vehicles for the floor mat issue and then issued another recall for sticky gas pedals. All in all, Toyota recalled some 10.2 million vehicles for unintended acceleration, USA Today reports, hurting the image of the manufacturer, for a short while.

Toyota North America said they agreed to the settlement with federal regulators “in order to avoid a time-consuming dispute and to focus fully on our shared commitment with NHTSA to keep drivers safe,” the LA Times reports. The company agreed to the settlement, however they did not admit to guilt. As part of the settlement Toyota will strengthen its quality assurance, internal tracking and reporting procedures.

According to USA Today, the $17.35 million fine was the maximum allowed for safety reporting delays in 2012, however, the maximum rises in 2013 to $35 million, as regulators try to prompt manufacturers to conduct vehicle recalls earlier. “Every moment of delay has the potential to lead to deaths or injuries on our nation’s highways,” NHTSA said.

Even though the car maker has had several years of trouble relating to safety issues, its sales continue to increase. In fact, its growth is outpacing the industry, and it has claimed more than 14 percent of the domestic market.

The $17.35 NHTSA fine is the largest civil penalty paid to the U.S. for recall violations; however, the Post Tribune writes that Toyota had a $3.2 billion profit in the third quarter of last year.