Toyota could face the largest civil penalty ever assessed against an automaker because it “knowingly hid a dangerous defect,” the nation’s top safety overseer, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, charged.
The maker may be required to pay a fine of $16.4 million, the largest allowed under the law, in connection with the recall of 2.3 million cars and trucks equipped with potentially sticky accelerators. The massive service action was announced in January, three months after another recall, involving 3.8 million Toyota vehicles, to deal with the possibility loose carpets could jam their accelerator pedals and cause the vehicles to race out of control.
“We now have proof Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations,” which give an automaker only a brief window to report known safety defects to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said LaHood.
“They knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families,” added LaHood, who has been a harsh critic of the Japanese maker, in recent months.