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Toyota hit by record fine for US safety breaches

On the mat: A delay in recalling Lexus RXs over a floor mat problem has proved costly for Toyota in the United States.

Slow action on Lexus safety recall costs Toyota $17.35 million in US penalty

Toyota logo19 Dec 2012

UNITED States road safety authorities have delivered a strong message to car manufacturers who are tempted to hesitate on safety recalls, hitting Toyota with the maximum $17.35 million ($A16.48 million) fine for tardy action on floor mats that could foul the accelerator pedal on its 2010 Lexus RX range.

The penalty, which Toyota has agreed to pay, is a record for a violation of American vehicle recall rules.

Announcing the sanction, US transportation secretary Ray LaHood said safety was the highest priority of the transportation department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“With today’s announcement, I expect Toyota to rigorously reinforce its commitment to adhering to United States safety regulations,” he said.

Toyota North America chief quality officer Ray Tanguay said Toyota had agreed to the settlement “in order to avoid a time-consuming dispute and to focus fully on our shared commitment with NHTSA to keep drivers safe.”

Toyota has also agreed to make internal changes to its US safety quality assurance systems and review processes to avoid a repetition of the issue.

 center imageLeft: US transportation secretary Ray LaHood.

In future, motor companies that breach recall rules will be hit even harder, with US authorities planning to double the maximum penalty to $35 million.

The issue of floor mats on Lexus RX SUVs arose early this year when NHTSA’s own investigators noticed a trend in reports from vehicle owners.

NHTSA says its officers contacted Toyota about the apparent problem in May, and then Toyota replied a month later that it was aware of 63 alleged incidents of possible floor mat entrapment in its 2010 model-year Lexus RX350s since 2009.

“In June, Toyota advised NHTSA that it would conduct a recall of 154,036 2010 Lexus RX 350 and 2010 RX 450h vehicles to address floor mat pedal entrapment,” NHTSA said in a statement released in Washington overnight.

It is not the first time Toyota has copped civil penalties for such breaches. In 2010, the company agreed to pay $48.8 million after NHTSA investigate three cases involving pedal entrapment, sticky pedal and steering relay rods.

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