WASHINGTON - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on April 5 announced that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is seeking the maximum civil penalty of $16.375 million against Toyota Motor Corp. for "failing to notify the auto safety agency of the 'sticky pedal' defect for at least four months, despite knowing of the potential risk to consumers."
Approximately 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. were recalled in late January for the sticky pedal defect.
In response to the announcement, Toyota issued the following statement: "Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) received notice from NHTSA on April 5 (in the United States) that NHTSA is seeking a civil penalty. TMC is now considering its response. Toyota has and will continue to practice its philosophy of satisfying consumers with high quality vehicles that are safe and reliable, and responding to consumer feedback with honesty and integrity."
Auto manufacturers are legally obligated to notify NHTSA within five business days if they determine that a safety defect exists.
On Feb. 16, NHTSA launched an investigation into the timeliness and scope of the three recent Toyota recalls and required the automaker to turn over documents and explanations related to its adherence to U.S. auto safety laws. NHTSA said it made a preliminary determination on the fine "based on a review of documents Toyota has provided."
To date, Toyota has submitted more than 70,000 pages of documents, which NHTSA officials are continuing to review, the agency said.