Time will tell if Toyota has changed, says Ray LaHood

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 25, 2010

As US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made a visit to Toyota Motor Corp.'s Japan headquarters, he said that he isn't about to reject the idea of additional fines to be imposed on the automaker. LaHood clarified that the agency will continue to review the documents presented to it. He said that safety is the number one priority and that if the case calls for it, he will make the necessary recommendations.

Toyota had said that it will pay the $16.4 million fine imposed by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on April 19 for its failure to promptly report defects in vehicle accelerator pedals that have resulted to recalls of over 8 million vehicles worldwide.

At a briefing, LaHood said that the NHTSA is currently reviewing 500,000 documents and that it will take some time to complete.

So far, LaHood has visited Toyota's facilities in Japan. He also intends to visit Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. Toyota President Akio Toyoda invited LaHood to visit Toyota's US manufacturing and quality control facilities as well.

Toyota was fined because for four months, it "knowingly hid" defects related to unintended acceleration. Under the rules, Toyota was required to notify the agency within five days.

This record fine amounts to less than 2% of Toyota's projected net income for the year ended March 31. LaHood said that Toyota's act of paying the fine shows that it accepts responsibility for the violation. Nonetheless, Toyota rejects the accusations made by NHTSA, saying it will only do so to avoid "a protracted dispute."

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