Breaking: Toyota To End NHTSA Investigation With $32m Fine

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
breaking toyota to end nhtsa investigation with 32m fine

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!

Join the conversation
10 of 19 comments
  • Robert.Walter Robert.Walter on Dec 21, 2010

    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.

    • See 2 previous
    • Robert.Walter Robert.Walter on Dec 21, 2010

      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.) 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.)

  • NormSV650 NormSV650 on Dec 21, 2010

    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 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.

    • See 2 previous
    • PeteMoran PeteMoran on Dec 21, 2010

      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.

  • Steven02 Steven02 on Dec 21, 2010

    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.

  • Ecliberman Ecliberman on Dec 21, 2010

    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: