By on December 20, 2010

The AP [via Google] reports that Toyota’s board has voted to pay $32.4m on top of the $16.4 it already paid the US Department of Transportation in connection with its handling of several recalls. The first involved Toyota’s handling of gas-pedal entrapment by floormats in its vehicles that were part of the Unintended Acceleration scandal earlier this year. The other involved steering rods in certain 4Runners and T-100 pickups that were not recalled despite a 2004 Japanese market recall for the same parts on Hilux pickups.

In both cases, Toyota has agreed to pay the maximum fine, adjusted for inflation, giving Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood cause for ebullience.Mr “Stop Driving Your Toyota” enthuses:

Safety is our top priority and we take our responsibility to protect consumers seriously. 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

Otherwise they can expect another run-in with the only Americans who can’t be sued for slander. Even though investigations by DOT and the National Academy of Sciences into the causes of Unintended Acceleration in Toyotas won’t release their conclusions until late next year. Still, Toyota is putting a pragmatic face on a fine that pales in comparison to its $3.58b first-half profit this year, saying

These agreements are an opportunity to turn the page to an even more constructive relationship with NHTSA

That’s the spirit!

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19 Comments on “Breaking: Toyota To End NHTSA Investigation With $32m Fine...”


  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Such good timing the Monday before Christmas. Thinking Toyota should run for political office as they say one thing and do another. I’ve been following. Their chaos since this time lay year for my Friday before a weekend update. POS cars!

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      Yea, Toyota SUCKS!!!
      .
      Sorry, I was suddenly possessed by the Christmas ghost of Domestic Car Bashing and Pro Foreign Bias (sometimes nicknamed Consumer Reports), but my outburst was translated by my built in domestic bias filter.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    When the National Academy of Sciences discovers they can’t reproduce the UA problem, Toyota should ask for their fines to be donated somewhere.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    This is typical practice within our litigious order.  Pay off the plaintiff in order to make them go away, and to minimize losses, regardless of whether the complaint has any merit.  Some call it extortion, but that may be too strong a word so early in the morning.  Good going US Government.  One shakedown gone, just another and another to go.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Toyota – love ‘em or hate ‘em – is just playing the game, realizing the current political climate in the USA. They know better than to rock the boat too much and bring down the wrath of the government, media, TTAC commentors, and, especially, CUSTOMERS!

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I’m not going to comment on whether Toyota is being unfairly targeted, because I don’t have enough information to say. But it is clear that Govt. regulations are pretty much useless unless they are enforced.
     
    Some may reply that regulation is the problem here, but this is a one-sided view. The lower death rates we’ve seen in vehicular accidents over the last few decades has been far more a function of Govt. regulation than free market forces, and overall it’s been a good thing. This is because Govt. has to try and balance the individual’s freedom to drive the car they choose however they choose with the equally important freedom not to be subject to unreasonable degrees of risk from the actions of others (including the willful negligence of automobile manufacturers, dealers, and so on). Automobiles are dangerous things and while one person may want to drive whatever car they want however they want, another person might want to feel that they are not being put at an unreasonable degree of risk by the choices and actions of others. The former group includes some drivers, while the latter group includes both some drivers and some non-drivers (e.g., passengers, pedestrians, etc,.). The primary purpose of Govt. regulation in cases like this is to make sure that the freedoms of those who want to feel reasonably safe is balanced against those who want to do whatever the hell they want. Freedom is not a one-way street, but places restrictions on what I can and cannot do with respect to the freedoms of others.
     
    You may argue particular cases, but generally speaking a reasonable degree of Govt. regulation is a good thing.

    • 0 avatar

      A reasonable degree of government regulation is a good thing – as long as there is a level playing field, and as long as the regulations are enforced with equal vigor.
      Show me another automaker – domestic or foreign – who has paid the maximum fine.
      Show me another automaker who has paid the maximum fine three times so far (or am I missing some?)
      Show me another automaker who has been shaken down that hard for mere technicalities.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      As I said in my previous post, I’m not arguing the legitimacy of this particular case. It may well be the case that Toyota is being unfairly targeted in this situation (or conversely, that the other automakers are being treated too leniently). In fact, I would agree that the evidence (or at least what we have of it) does indeed suggest that there’s something odd about this particular situation.

      If Toyota is indeed guilty of willful negligence, then the Govt. is in their right to go after them. As you rightly point out, however, it also follows that Govt. should treat any other manufacturer that is guilty (or suspected) of similar breaches with equal fervor. If this is not happening, then Govt. ought indeed to be challenged and called to task on this kind of thing.

  • avatar
    Zarf

    I always wonder where that money ends up going.  It certainly isn’t going towards roads or lowering debt.
    I think they should have a lottery of registered owners of the brand.  So in this case, pick 100 Toyota owners and divide the fine up between them.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    This is more than a mere technicality … show me another automaker that did a recall and replace in a foreign market, yet didn’t perform the same recall in the US within the same timeframe, and I’ll show you another automaker that needs to get out their checkbook…

    People are still wanting to confuse or ignore the fact that TMC ran gravely afoul (with fatal consequences) on the 1. floor mat issue (this in fact was a serial problem), 2. the track bar issue, and 3. the e-pedal issue (yes, Virginia, TMC changed the design and did R&R in overseas markets well before getting busted and undertaking remedial actions in the USA).  Remember, the issue here is not necessarily the time between discovering the issue and fixing it, it is also the time between discovering it and reporting it to NHTSA (ca. within 5 days by law)…

    By my count, TMC is lucky that they only had to pay for two out of three violations.

    Any other OEM who acted similarly should be similarly hammered.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      This is more than a mere technicality … show me another automaker that did a recall and replace in a foreign market, yet didn’t perform the same recall in the US within the same timeframe, and I’ll show you another automaker that needs to get out their checkbook

      This has happened to a few with “snowbelt-only” recalls, though admittedly they’re not a different country. I do agree with your point, though not with the political haymaking that surrounds it and certainly not with the media.

    • 0 avatar
      PeteMoran

      the e-pedal issue (yes, Virginia, TMC changed the design and did R&R in overseas markets well before getting busted and undertaking remedial actions in the USA)
       

      What redesigned part do you speak of? What R&D overseas? The same unit was in use in Australia without the UA problem. You are aware this is “fix“?
       
       
       
      The NHTSA know Toyota don’t have a cogent explanation and the Academy is struggling. We would need black boxes and video of every driver to find it. How terrible it will be if there is a substantial contribution of operator error. Once the noise of unfortunate user initiated UA was/is eliminated there will be no statistical significance in the results.
       
       
      Anyone who thinks Toyota are waving this off is idiotic.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      In the interest of fairness, and if the facts as portrayed by abc/ross/kane/the vehicle video are accurate then this would seem to be a candidate for similar fines. 

      The acid test questions are: 1. what did ford know, 2. when did ford know it, 3. how long after becoming aware of issue did ford inform nhtsa, 4. did ford fully inform nhtsa, 5. did ford do adequate follow-up, 6. did ford keep nhtsa updated, 7. why, and for how long, did ford maintain that such a severe failure mode did Not warrant a comprehensive recall?? 

      Also to be asked of nhtsa:  why does it appear that your agency was asleep at the switch?  do your regulations require a comprehensive review for completeness and appropeiate follow-up?  are oems required to report pending litigation for claimed vehicle defects?  Are insurance companies similarly required to report fatal or major property damage claims where a vehile defect is the suspected root cause?  (Both of these being legitimate information vectors, like excessive warranty calls and/or service part sales, as to what is happening in the field.)

      http://news.yahoo.com/video/business-15749628/23588398

      full disclosure: the v229 windstar shown uses a safety part that I played a role in designing (has no bearing, however, on the axle defect issue.)

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Show me a manufacturer that has trickled recalls every 2-4 weeks in the last 12 months or ever?

    If I’m not mistaken every model has had some type of recall and no other car maker has matched that. Do you think brake bracket on a 2011 Sienna, stability system not working on Lexus SUV, pedal length too long and floor mats that bind up….is just an American phenomenon? Are American parts suppliers really that bad at making parts? I think Toyota got caught with it’s hand in cookie jar with ex-Toyota employees going to work for NHTSA. I’m glad NHTSA has put it’s foot down and stopped the gloating of money saved from Toyota not having to recall.

    • 0 avatar
      PeteMoran

      Are American parts suppliers really that bad at making parts?
       
      Maybe, isn’t GM recalling every Cruise for a seat-belt buckle?? What did they save there 10c/unit for someone’s life??

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

       
      I don’t know about the Cruze, but I heard the Equinox, Terrain and SRX (100,000 cars total) were being recalled for some seat belt issue.

    • 0 avatar
      PeteMoran

      Yes, I was wrong. It’s various cross-overs from GM not the Cruise.
       
      Don’t bother going to the GMownercentre; it’s a Flash programmers nightmare. Plain HTML does the job too boys.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Interesting how the article isn’t about why Toyota didn’t recall these parts in the US in a timely fashion and instead is about how Toyota is paying large fines and how Toyota might be out more money from other litigation.  I know why Toyota is paying the money, they didn’t recall the exact same parts that were deemed bad in other markets.  Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to find out why they were fined.  The real question here is why did Toyota NOT recall the same parts for the US market.  I would be far more interested in this.

  • avatar
    ecliberman

    First, your headline is incorrect: A recall query into whether Toyota defined SUA too narrowly is still pending. This RQ is meant to examine some of the more complicated defect issues.
     
    The Timeliness Queries simply assess whether Toyota met its statutory obligation to report a known defect to the government within five days. As some of your posters have pointed out, it’s hard to argue that it launched its US campaigns in a timely fashion, when Toyota had already recalled or initiated a field campaign in overseas markets many months ago. The fines were justified, and one can only hope that they send a very pointed message to other automakers who gamble with their customers’ lives on the agency’s inattention.
     
    Further, your headline misses the larger point about Toyota. The evidence is mounting that Toyota has duplicated customer-reported UA incidents and is an outlier in its weak fault detection system. The latter is not an insubstantial matter. As automotive electronics become ever more complex, far ahead of any minimum safety performance standard, a vehicle’s ability to detect errors and allow the system to fail safe becomes more critical. The results of the Toyota investigations have serious implications for all defect investigations going forward.
     
    In addition to the RQ, the NAS and NASA reports, there is a current probe into NHTSA’s actions by the Inspector General, and a federal grand jury investigation over the relay rod recall in New York. The last chapter in this story is still a ways off.
     
    For a more complete picture, you might want to follow this link:
     
    http://www.safetyresearch.net/2010/12/21/double-ding-for-toyota/
     


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