The Truth About Cars » fine The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 10:00:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » fine Ka-Ching: Toyota Pays NHTSA $17.36 Million Tue, 18 Dec 2012 13:47:23 +0000 Toyota has agreed to make a payment of $17.35 million to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is “to settle claims related to the timeliness of its June 2012 recall to address the potential for accelerator pedal entrapment caused by unsecured or incompatible driver’s side floor mat in the 2010 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h, without admitting to any violation of its obligations under the U.S. Safety Act.,” as a Toyota statement says. 

Toyota keeps making contributions to NHTSA’s funding. In 2010, Toyota was fined three\ times the maximum penalty of 16 million for violations stemming from pedal entrapment, sticky pedal and steering relay rod recalls.

Federal law requires that auto manufacturers notify NHTSA within five business days of determining that a safety defect exists. Says the NHTSA:

“In early 2012, NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation began noticing a trend in floor mat pedal entrapment in 2010 Lexus RX 350s in Vehicle Owner Questionnaires (VOQs) and Early Warning Reporting data. In May, NHTSA contacted Toyota regarding the trend, and a month later Toyota advised NHTSA that it was aware of 63 alleged incidents of possible floor mat pedal entrapment in Model Year 2010 Lexus RX 350s since 2009. Toyota’s own technicians and dealer technicians reported that certain alleged incidents of unwanted acceleration had been caused by floor mat pedal entrapment.”

Next year, the maximum fine NHTSA can assess will double to $35 million. Lawmakers wanted to raise the maximum fine to $300 million at some point, but the matter got stuck in committee.

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Tough Times For BYD: Sales Down By 25 Percent, 7 Factories Confiscated By Government Wed, 13 Oct 2010 14:39:01 +0000

BYD, that Chinese company that could do no wrong, and that has been anointed by Warren Buffet’s golden hand (and money), is in a bit of a rough patch lately. As if there was no shortage of Bad Yucky Dreams lately, here is more. You want the bad news or the really bad news first?

Ok, let’s ease into the story with the bad news: While the Chinese market was up 19.3 percent in September, BYD was down 25 percent year-on-year last month, and sold only 33,085 vehicles (pretty much all of them gasoline-powered.) That according to (via Gasgoo.) BYD sold 11,890 F3 and 12,615 F0 cars.

Now for the really bad news: China’s Ministry of Land and Resources announced today (in Chinese) that BYD received a 2.95 million yuan ($442,000) fine from the central government after BYD had unlawfully built seven factories on 112 acres of farmland in Xi’an. When the factories went up, 92 percent of the land was still zoned for agriculture. Taking land from farmers is a hot button in China. But then why the $442,000 slap on the wrist? Wait what else happened: The seven factories were confiscated by the government. Ooops. THAT hurts.

Reuters reports that “the government also gave administrative punishment to related government officials for not exercising effective supervision.” That will make sure that there won’t be any repeats.

According to Bloomberg, “the decision adds to setbacks for the Shenzhen-based automaker that include declining domestic sales and scaled-back plans to sell electric cars in California.”

All of this doesn’t help with the planned A-share listing in Shenzhen. BYD is currently a Hong Kong company. If you want to be a blue chip, you need an A-share listing with a mainland bourse.

In July, BYD had said it may delay the share sale to wait for “better timing.” A day later, the government announced its investigation into the land deals.

As the list of nine month sales published yesterday shows, BYD is in an unenviable situation. The Chinese market is dominated by five state-owned enterprises, SAIC, Dongfeng, FAW, Changan and BAIC. They all produced more than a million cars this year already. Then comes a long stretch of nothing, until we hit a group of private (as much as this is possible in China) carmakers: Geely, Chery, BYD, Brilliance.) They all produced only a few hundred thousand so far. When the big consolidation comes (and it will, the big ones got the memo that you are only viable with 5m cars annually), the privately owned ones will be gobbled up. Especially if they aren’t doing so well. As we all know by now: A state owned car company can afford mistakes. A privately owned one cannot.

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U.S. Government Accused of Withholding Exonerating Toyota Information Thu, 22 Jul 2010 13:05:48 +0000

Remember how Toyota was slapped with a $16.4m fine for allegedly withholding information and delaying recalls? Remember how Toyota was served again with a subpoena for information, what many read as the prelude for another $16.4m fine? (If anyone again says that $16,4m is pocket change, please send me the pocket change.) Well, there are some people in Washington who claim that it’s the U.S.  government that might be withholding information.

According to Dow Jones Newswire (via The Nikkei [sub] ) “the Obama administration came under pressure to disclose more information about its investigation of Toyota Motor Corp. with congressional Republicans questioning whether officials are withholding data that could favor Toyota in some crashes.”

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter to NHTSA, asking them to fork over crash data that, according to articles in the Wall Street Journal and TTAC article published last week, proves that in many crashes, the driver had his or her foot on the gas instead of the brake.

The Journal said they had it from “people familiar with the crash-data test results” and Joe Barton thinks thos people might be at the NHTSA. As far as the NHTSA or the DOT are concerned, mum’s the word. There are other people who point fingers at Toyota and say that it was Toyota who “planted” that story, but Barton isn’t buying it.

Barton sent a strongly worded letter to NHTSA boss David Strickland, The letterwas also signed by Energy and Commerce Committee members Reps. Ed Whitfield (R., Ky.) and Michael Burgess (R., Texas).  The letter says that “it is important for us to know whether NHTSA has EDR data showing that some incidents of reported sudden unintended acceleration were the result of pedal misapplication.”

The Republicans wave a big stick: They point out in the letter that the House is expected to vote soon on a far-reaching vehicle-safety bill that would up the financial ante considerably, and could even land car executive in jail. Subliminal message: If you want that law to pass anytime soon, hand over the information. Too bad there is no clause in any law that the fine gets refunded if the government withholds information. That’s not the way it works.

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New Record Fine Against Toyota? Or Record Fail Of Lawyers And Media? Mon, 14 Jun 2010 17:31:38 +0000

A lawsuit brought in California against Toyota led to the disclosure of allegedly damning documents that could cost Toyota another huge fine if the documents contain what the lawyers say. Unless lawyers (or the media) were asleep at the wheel. According to USA Today, these documents “point to possible delays involving an earlier safety issue, one that could result in loss of steering control.” USA Today says records that are part of the lawsuit show that Toyota was dealing with cracking and breaking steering relay rods in the U.S. for at least 11 years before it recalled 330,000 pickups and SUVs in Japan to replace the rods — and 12 years before its 2005 recall of nearly a million similar trucks in the U.S.

Sounds kind of familiar. I’m not suffering from Alzheimer yet, so let’s go on a fact-finding mission to the TTAC archives …

In April, Toyota was slapped with a $16.4m fine for delaying a recall due to defective accelerator pedals. Toyota paid without an admission of wrongdoing.  Then, the DOT said there could be a second fine, based on the theory that there were two separate defects in the pedals. In May, while Ray LaHood visited the Toyota headquarters, the DOT said that they are looking into a third fine, this time for the Hilux Surf that was recalled in Japan in 2004, but was recalled only a year later in the U.S. This was about steering rods that were subject to fatigue, cracks and breaks.

That sounds very much like what the lawyers unearthed in California.

Says USA Today today: “Now NHTSA — which accepted Toyota’s assertion after the 2004 steering rod recall in Japan that U.S. action was not needed — has opened a probe demanding that Toyota explain why it waited nearly a year to recall the compact pickups, 4Runner SUVs and T-100 pickups in the U.S. to fix the rods.”

As a matter of fact, the NHTSA had opened the probe months ago, but nobody is checking anymore. The press is just blindly writing what lawyers feed them. There is no mention of a fresh probe into Toyota on the NHTSA website. The NHTSA usually is not shy about these matters.

On May 10, 2010, NHTSA announced: “NHTSA Opens Investigation into Timeliness of 2005 Toyota Steering Relay Rod Recall.”  Ever since: Nothing. Cognoscenti will remember that the Hilux is sold as the 4Runner stateside.  Lawyers may not know that.

Nobody in the press thought it worthy of digging into this matter. Instead, everybody printed reams of warmed-over stories that sound like they were written by a lawyer.

In the computer age, it took us 10 minutes to find out that they were fed news that was more than a month old. They swallowed it. Can you get food poisoning from news that exceeded its shelf life? Lawyers should look into this.

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The Shakedown Continues: Toyota Could Cough Up Another $16.4 mil Over 6 Year Old Truck Tue, 11 May 2010 06:36:17 +0000

Talk about timing: While Trans Sec LaHood was in Japan yesterday, ostensibly to look a trainsets, while he toured Toyota instead and uttered dark “time will tell” threats, while he said that his people are still working on the evidence for a second $16.4m federal fine, back in Washington, the timer was set for yet another ticking 16.4 mega-tonne bomb.

The DOT said Monday it will launch an investigation into whether Toyota Motor Corp. waited too long before recalling its T100 pickup truck in the U.S. , reports The Nikkei [sub]. The 6 year old case could cost Toyota the third $16.4m fine. Soon, we’ll be talking about real money.

The allegations: In 2004, Toyota recalled the truck, known as Hilux Surf, in Japan. Steering rods were subject to fatigue, cracks and breaks. In the U.S., the truck wasn’t recalled. Toyota said it was an issue isolated to trucks sold in Japan. A year later, the truck was recalled in the U.S.

Now, NHTSA said Monday that Toyota may have received similar complaints about the T100 truck from U.S. customers in 2004.

Under the TREAD act, NHTSA must be informed about defects within five business days after learning about them. Says The Nikkei: “If the latest probe determines Toyota broke this rule in 2004, the Japanese automaker is likely to be penalized with a new fine.”

It is unclear whether the third fine was mentioned yesterday during the meeting. The second was. Apart from that, LaHood said he and Akio Toyoda had a “candid, frank and serious discussion.” Which is diplomatic double-speak for yelling at each other.

When the U.S. threatened new sanctions against North Korea back in 2003, the talks were “positive, frank and candid.” That was one step below “candid, frank and serious.”

Toyota was the first manufacturer to be hit with the maximum penalty. Assuming non-discriminatorial treatment, other auto maker better start building reserves in case the serial fines set a precedent.

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Draft Safety Legislation: $3-$9 New Car Sale Fee, Unlimited Defect Fines, Mandatory Pedal Distances, More Fri, 30 Apr 2010 00:34:51 +0000

The Detroit Free Press got its hands on draft auto safety legislation drawn up by Senators Waxman and Rockefeller, and aimed at preventing another Toyota recall-style scandal. In addition to mandating brake override systems on all cars sold in the US, The Freep says the bill would require that

[NHTSA] come up with rules for space between the brake and accelerator pedals, gear shift designs and stop-start systems – all problems highlighted by the Toyota probe. Automakers would be required to build vehicles with event data recorders that could be easily read, a step Detroit automakers made several years ago but that Toyota and other foreign brands have resisted.

Despite the Freep’s attempt at making the bill sound like it’s only going to affect Toyota and other non-Detroit automakers, there is plenty in the proposed legislation that could hurt any automaker.

For one thing, the proposal would make delays to recalls a potential firm-killer. NHTSA had told Toyota that its 2.3m unit recall delay would have earned it a fine of $13.8b had there not been a cap at $16.4m, the amount Toyota paid. Not only would this new legislation remove that cap, but it would also raise the per-vehicle fine from $6,000 to $25,000. Plus,

NHTSA also could fine manufacturers for withholding information from the agency, with fines of $50,000 per day up to $250 million

Under this system, the Toyota recall delay could have earned Toyota a fine of $57.5b… or more. It’s too bad Senators Waxman and Rockefeller hadn’t thought of this earlier, or Toyota could have just paid off most of the cost of GM’s bailout. As it is, an American firm is just as likely as any other to be caught in the next safety scandal. And if this measure passes, the stakes will be high enough that the next big scandal could just put its  perpetrator out of business.

But the hits just keep coming:

Under the version proposed by Waxman, the U.S. Department of Transportation would have the power to collect a per-vehicle fee to fund NHTSA of $3 per vehicle, rising to $9 in its third year. The fee could not replace NHTSA’s current vehicle safety budget.

And there’s more from The AP on Waxman’s version of the bill, which:

would require a U.S. auto executive to certify the accuracy of information submitted to NHTSA in response to a government investigation. Any executive who provided false information could face up to $250 million in fines.

Waxmans version would also:

allow NHTSA to order an immediate recall if it finds an “imminent hazard of death or serious injury.”

More details as they become available. Meanwhile, Waxman is said to be holding a hearing next week on the legislation.

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Ka-Ching: Toyota Hands Dough To DOT Mon, 19 Apr 2010 15:42:48 +0000

Toyota Motor Corp. has agreed to pay a $16.4 million civil fine levied by the U.S. government, reports The Nikkei [sub]. They will not admit any wrongdoing and can claim that they never admitted to knowingly hiding defects from regulators, said a senior U.S. Transportation Department official. On Friday, it wasn’t clear whether the DOT would accept the dough with a deal attached.

The agreement should be papered as you read this, early Monday, and Toyota will have 30 days to fork over the funds.

Although there will be no admission of guilt, the DOT has no doubts about the whodunit: According to the Nikkei, the DOT still maintains that the auto maker knowingly hid a “sticky pedal” defect in certain models for at least four months, before agreeing to a recall earlier this year.”

“By paying the full civil penalty, Toyota is accepting responsibility for hiding this safety defect from NHTSA in violation of the law,” a senior DOT official said. Ah, the fine nuances of the law.

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Ka-Ching: Toyota To Pay $16.4m On Monday. Or Not Sat, 17 Apr 2010 12:29:31 +0000

On April 5, the NHTSA levied their largest civil penalty in recorded history. $16,375,000 against Toyota,  because “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.” When we reported that, people thought Toyota would just appeal and drag it out. Not so easy, said The Nikkei [sub]. Toyota is between a rock and a hard place: “Admitting to the charge could strengthen the cases of car owners suing the firm, while refuting it risks inflaming U.S. public opinion.”  Toyota found a way out.

According to Japan’s Jiji News Agency, Toyota will pay the $16.4m on Monday morning without admitting any wrongdoing.  According to Jiji, Toyota “concluded that filing a complaint over the penalty would draw opposition from the U.S. government and Congress and further damage its brand image, already hurt by recent massive recalls to deal with the defect.”

Reuters says that Toyota might still appeal if regulators don’t approve the company’s plan of not admitting the allegations.

So what say you? Will LaHood take the money?

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Fiat Gets A Haircut And A Fine Brazilian. Sorry, A Brazilian Fine Fri, 12 Mar 2010 08:41:16 +0000

While Toyota has recall troubles in one of their largest markets, elsewhere in the world, another carmaker has serious recall troubles in one of their biggest markets. We usually don’t comment on each and every recall everywhere, but this one warrants mention: Brazil’s Justice Ministry has fined Fiat’s Brazilian subsidiary 3 million Reais (about $1.7 million) for failing to comply with four recall orders. Fiat had been asked to recall Stilo models to fix a wheel problem that may (note the key word “may”) have caused 8 deaths since 2004, says Business Week. No recall followed.

According to the report, 8 people died in 30 accidents involving Fiat Stilos which lost their rear wheels. If you wheels come off, Fiat can hardly blame “driver error”. According to Justice Ministry spokesperson, Renato Oliveira, the problem was first reported in 2004 and after an investigation, the first recall was requested 2 years later.

Oliveira said “Fiat was asked to recall the Stilos in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 but the company, claiming there was nothing wrong with the wheels, refused to issue the recall, which is why we have fined Fiat.” There may be another fine coming: The Sao Paulo Consumer Protection Service may fine Fiat Brazil the same 3 million Reais (again about $1.7 million) for “marketing a product it should have known was dangerous.”

Fiat has announced that they will recall the cars (a fine can have that effect on companies). Despite this scathing criticism, Fiat still denies there is a problem. Take a tip from Akio Toyoda, bow a lot and vow to improve quality.

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Indiana: City Threatens $2500 Fines for Challenging Traffic Tickets Thu, 10 Dec 2009 17:25:47 +0000 Marion County Courthouse circa 1875 (

Motorists who receive minor parking or traffic tickets in Indianapolis, Indiana are being threatened with fines of up to $2500 if they attempt to take the ticket to court. A local attorney with the firm Roberts and Bishop was so outraged by what he saw in Marion County traffic court that he filed a class action suit yesterday seeking to have the practice banned as unconstitutional.

“The deck is stacked against the motorist,” lawyer Paul K. Ogden wrote. “To penalize that person for seeking justice seems wrong. I know it is done for the purpose of discouraging baseless challenges to tickets and clogging the docket, but in the process you are also penalizing people who have a legitimate defense and want a chance to present it to the court.”

The city made explicit the threat of additional fines for challenging parking tickets in a November 30 press release announcing a deal between Indianapolis and a private firm, T2 Systems, to hand over operations of a parking ticket court to increase municipal income.

“Using Six Sigma process improvement strategies, it is estimated that under this program the city may collect an additional $352,000 to $520,000 in parking citation revenue over the next 12 months,” the city press release stated. “If citations are not paid prior to their scheduled hearing, the city may request a fine of up to $2500 per citation. Upon receiving a judgment for an unpaid citation, individuals responsible could be subject to collections actions or having their vehicle registration suspended.”

In traffic court, Judge William Young has been making good on the threats by routinely siding with police officers in disputes and imposing fines of up to $500 on anyone who challenges a moving violation ticket, no matter how minor, and loses. Those who pay without going to court do not face this extra fine.

“Unfortunately what you have happen a lot of times is that judges aren’t particularly worried about whether what they’re doing may be violating the law as the odds of someone ever appealing a $400 traffic ticket is remote,” Ogden wrote. “I see it all the time. Trial judges flouting the law knowing they are unlikely to ever be challenged on an appeal because the litigants can’t afford it.”

Ogden is specifically representing three motorists affected by court policies. Toshinao Ishii received a ticket for driving 63 MPH in a 55 zone in February. Had he paid the ticket without challenge, the fine would have been $150. After Judge Young sided with the police officer in court, Ishii was fined $550. Motorist Matthew Stone was told by his doctors not to wear a seatbelt over his chest as it could damage his cardiac pacemaker. He received a $25 ticket for not wearing a seatbelt. After court officials threatened Stone with a $500 fine, he gave up his intention of challenging the citation. Adam Lenkowsky, who did not receive a ticket, attempted to attend a traffic court proceeding on September 23, 2009. He was barred from the court, despite the state constitutional requirement that court proceedings be open.

Ogden argues the court’s practices in the first two cases violate the excessive fines clause of the state constitution as well as the clause requiring that “all penalties shall be proportioned to the nature of the offense.”


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