Toyota fined $32m in relation to vehicle recalls

Toyota has reached two settlement agreements with the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in relation to the timeliness of recalls conducted by the company.

The recalls, in 2005 and 2007 to early 2010 respectively, concerned potential difficulties with steering relay rods, and the potential for pedal entrapment by unsecured, incompatible or improperly installed floor mats.

The Japanese automotive giant has agreed to pay $32.42m (approximately £20.6m) as part of these settlements, without admitting to any violation of its obligations under the US Safety Act.

In April 2010, the company was fined $16.37m for failing to notify the NHTSA of a pedal defect for almost four months.

The so-called ‘sticky pedal’ and ‘slow to return pedal’ defects resulted in Toyota’s recall of approximately 2.3 million vehicles in the US in late January.

Similarly, an investigation was launched in May 2010 into whether Toyota had, in 2005, notified the NHTSA of a steering relay rod safety defect within five business days of learning of the defect’s existence in Hilux trucks.

In 2004, Toyota conducted a recall in Japan for Hilux trucks with steering relay rods prone to fatiguing, cracking and possibly breaking, causing the vehicle to lose steering control.

At that time, Toyota informed NHTSA that the safety defect was isolated to vehicles in Japan.

In 2005, however, Toyota informed NHTSA that the defect was present in several models sold in the US and conducted a recall.

NHTSA decided to open an investigation after it emerged that a number of complaints had been filed with Toyota by US consumers prior to the 2004 Hilux recall in Japan.

‘Our North American operations now have a greater voice in making safety decisions, and we are taking appropriate action whenever any issues emerge,’ said Steve St Angelo, Toyota’s chief quality officer for North America. ‘We’ve substantially strengthened our ability to investigate customer concerns through our rapid-response SMART evaluation process and other measures.’