Yesterday, the Department of Transportation had some harsh words for Toyota. After months of bad publicity from multiple technical problems with its automobiles, which have resulted in deaths across the globe, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the following:
“We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations…Worse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families. For those reasons, we are seeking the maximum penalty possible under current laws.”
Specifically, this statement is only in relation to one of Toyota’s automobile problems – the “sticky pedal” issue. Other serious issues that the company and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have been looking into include sudden increases in engine RPM, and sudden “unintended” vehicle acceleration, which may or may not relate to software issues.
The news yesterday boils down to this: The NHTSA is bringing a $16.4 million fine against Toyota, again just for the “sticky pedal” issue, because the agency has evidence that the company hid this problem from government officials. You see, according to the NHTSA, auto companies are supposed to notify the agency “within five business days if they determine that a safety defect exists.” The NHTSA has also found that Toyota:
…knew of the sticky pedal defect since at least September 29, 2009. That day, Toyota issued repair procedures to their distributors in 31 European countries and Canada to address complaints of sticky accelerator pedals, sudden increases in engine RPM, and sudden vehicle acceleration. The documents also show that Toyota was aware that consumers in the United States were experiencing the same problems.
Toyota, however, failed to tell American officials that about the sticking pedals for another four months. The company now has two weeks to decide to either fight the fine, or accept it (which would signal of an admission of guilt).