WASHINGTON (Feb. 4, 2010) — Toyota Motor Corp. faces a possible multimillion-dollar federal fine for failing to issue timely recalls of defective vehicles, a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) official said yesterday.
The DOT, headed by Secretary Ray LaHood, is considering a civil penalty against the auto maker, said the official, who asked not to be identified.
Auto makers that fail to recall defective vehicles in a timely manner are subject to fines of up to $16.4 million. Toyota had one recall in October and another in January.
“We have not received any official communication from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) so we are unable to comment at this time,” Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight said in an e-mail to Automotive News.
The DOT official did not respond to questions about the maximum fine being considered or the timing of any decision.
“We´re not finished with Toyota and are continuing to review possible defects and monitor the implementation of the recalls,” Mr. LaHood said in a statement earlier this week.
He said officials from NHTSA flew to Japan in December “to remind Toyota management about its legal obligations” and followed up in January with a meeting at Transportation Department headquarters in Washington “to insist that they address the accelerator-pedal issue.”
Mr. LaHood added: “While Toyota is taking responsible action now, it unfortunately took an enormous effort to get to this point.”
The biggest recall fine to date was $1 million assessed against General Motors Corp., involving windshield-wiper failure in 581,344 Chevrolet Trailblazers, Oldsmobile Bravadas, GMC Envoys and Isuzu Ascenders made in 2002 and 2003, the DOT official said.
Car dealers who knowingly sell a defective vehicle also are subject to possible fines of as much as $6,000 per vehicle. No such fine has ever been imposed, according to Transportation records.
This report appeared in Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.