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Posts Tagged ‘Toyota safety fines’

Toyota Pays Record Fine for Recall Delay

Fourth big penalty for Japanese maker for delaying safety campaign.

by on Dec.18, 2012

Lexus will pay a record fine for delaying the recall of nearly 150,000 RX models due to an unintended acceleration-related problem.

In a further blow to its well-honed image of quality, reliability and safety, Toyota has confirmed it will have to pay a record $17.35 million fine for delaying yet another recall related to unintended acceleration problems.

The news comes even as the Japanese giant heads towards the end of the year in a dubious race with rival Honda to see who will have the most vehicles recalled due to safety problems for all of 2012.

The latest fine marks the fourth time since 2010 that Toyota has had to shell out the maximum allowable penalty for delaying recalls.  Three years ago, fines levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration totaled $48.8 million – but that covered three separate recalls in which Toyota failed to act in a timely manner on a known safety defect, as required by U.S. law.

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According to a five-page draft agreement uncovered by the Detroit News, Toyota now will not only have to pay $17.35 million for delaying the recall of 154,000 Lexus RX crossovers last June but it will also have to hold monthly meetings related to safety issues.  It will also have to make significant internal reforms.


First Look: The Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010

NHTSA and Toyota safety lapses prompt tough new legislation.

by on May.05, 2010

NHTSA is just the latest regulatory agency under scrutiny for its failure to regulate.

As a result of the fatalities and law breaking at Toyota, as well as lapses in enforcement at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during unintended acceleration deaths, automotive regulations are about to be stiffened.

It’s not necessarily a good thing.

In a way this is a sequel: Ten years ago the fatalities and safety violations surrounding failing Firestone tires and Ford Explorer rollovers produced legislation that changed auto safety regulations and the practices of all auto and tire makers.

As the past is prologue to the future, it is not surprising that the new regulations will affect all automakers, and increase the expense of new vehicles by requiring them to pay fees to NHTSA to regulate them.

At stake are some key election year issues: How big and powerful should the government be? How are your tax dollars spent? What are they are spent on? And ultimately whether our safety agency is doing its job, as specified by the laws your representatives wrote, instead of being subverted by automakers or the former employees of automakers turned regulators.

Two aspects of new law are troublesome

The first is the incorporation of new fees or taxes instead of working within DOT’s generous budget. NHTSA, apparently, cannot be properly funded with the $79 billion taxpayers already provide. So big government gets bigger, instead of more efficient. Why is the working assumption by politicians always that more (borrowed) money has to be spent? (See Is NHTSA Underfunded in DOT’s $79 Billion Budget?) DOT has a huge budget, but little of the money is allocated to auto safety. Motor vehicles are responsible for 95% of the nation’s transportation deaths but only 1% of the Transportation budget.

The second problem is as worrying. NHTSA would also get the authority to impose unlimited fines on automakers. I’m not against fines, but no matter how egregious the behavior of auto companies – or in the current headlines, say, Wall Street firms or oil companies – the U.S. government was set up to provide limits to power with checks and balancesnot un-limits to power.

This “divine right of kings’ proposal” in my view demands moderation. Moreover, given the amounts of money involved, it is likely to be the cause of much lobbying in “pay to play” Washington as corporations work behind the scenes to kill it, so it contributes to the ongoing problem of money in politics.

The first House hearing on what will be a complex bill occurs tomorrow in front of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. There will also be hearings later in the Senate on a similar, but slightly differing bill. Ultimately, unelected staff members of the politicians holding forth at the hearings will reconcile the two bills.

Some of the upcoming testimony no doubt will be a rehash of the obvious problems widely discussed during multiple Toyota hearings in both the House and Senate. (See Horror of Saylor Fatal Lexus Accident Reviewed at Opening of Congressional Hearing) However, this will be the first public discussion of the proposed changes, including the unlimited fines, additional user fees, new compliance reports and strict timelessness requirements.

Invited witnesses include:

  • David Strickland, Administrator, NHTSA
  • Dave McCurdy, President and Chief Executive Officer, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
  • Michael J. Stanton, President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of International Automobile Manufacturers
  • Joan Claybrook, Former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director, Center for Auto Safety
  • Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies, Cato Institute

This is a mixed group from an auto industry perspective. Both Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator, and Ditlow, a Nader acolyte, have already suggested drastic changes in safety regulations and increases in fines during previous Toyota hearings.

Moreover, much of what they have said makes sense. The real governance issue is how to reform auto safety regulations, instead of allowing populist rhetoric and industry bashing to become law.

NHTSA, of course, already has extensive power to regulate motor vehicles — and is about to get more. The new legislation seeks to improve auto safety and strengthen NHTSA by increasing the agency’s almost non-existent expertise in vehicle electronics (See NHTSA Has Five Electrical, One Software Engineer!), and requiring new safety standards for vehicles run largely by electronic systems.

The law also seeks to beef up the agency’s enforcement authorities, while increasing transparency and accountability in auto safety. Moreover, as always in Washington, there is the “who pays” for the additional expense argument. Short fiscal answer: no matter who pays, they only pay about one-third of the real cost, we are borrowing and printing money to cover the rest.

Most of the new bill appears consistent with Congressional intent as stated in previous legislation. NHTSA was established in 1970 to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce the economic cost of crashes. The Federal agency conducts crash data analysis, research, and rule making for vehicle safety. It is also responsible for overseeing issues related to fuel economy, child car seat performance, and – especially after deadly Firestone tread separations – tire safety.

NHTSA is also responsible for collecting consumer complaint data, investigating potential vehicle defects, and overseeing recalls of vehicles with safety defects.

Here is a closer look at what is in the draft of what will eventually become the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010. As always, the devil will be in the details of the final bill.

Vehicle Electronics and Safety Standards

The legislation would strengthen NHTSA’s sadly lacking expertise in electronics by creating a new Center for Vehicle Electronics and Emerging Technologies within NHTSA. The objective is “to build, integrate, and aggregate the agency’s expertise in new technologies across all vehicle safety components, including research and development, defects investigation, and rulemaking.” It would also encourage engineering students interested in vehicle safety to work in government by establishing a fellowship program. (more…)

Recalled! Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus GX 460

Toyota will reprogram the stability software in U.S. and Europe.

by on Apr.20, 2010

There's a lot of programming required to dictate the torque split, shown, antilock braking and VSC systems on an all-wheel drive vehicle.

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A. today announced it would conduct a voluntary safety recall on approximately 9,400 2010-model year Lexus GX 460 sport utility vehicles in order to reprogram the software of the so-called Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system.

Concurrently, Toyota Motor Europe announced it would recall of 7,500 Toyota Land Cruiser 150 (Prado) and Lexus GX 460 models, also to reprogram VSC software to improve its “responsiveness.”

The affected vehicles in Europe are only left-hand drive versions. The voluntary recall includes the Toyota Land Cruiser 150, available across Europe, and the Lexus GX 460, which is only available in certain Eastern European markets.

The electronic  VSC intervention will be made more agressive.

The electronically-controlled VSC system will now be made more aggressive.

The latest recalls were virtually assured once Consumer Reports – a long time proponent (critics say cheerleader) of Toyota’s engineering and quality issued an almost unheard of “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk” recommendation against the Lexus GX 460 in its April issue.

The magazine claimed the GX 460 was the worst, in terms of rollover potential, among the 95 SUVs in its current automotive ratings.

Rollovers used to be a serious safety problem among sport utility vehicles, but electronic controls, along with an epidemic of more than 5,000 “distracted driving” fatalities annually have made it less deadly, relatively speaking.

The VSC problem concerns “trailing throttle oversteer,” or the tendency of the Lexus to have the rear end swing wide in a turn if the driver lifts off the accelerator pedal. This points the front of the SUV toward the inside of the turn. Uncorrected by either the driver or electronic controls, the SUV could hit the curb, creating a trip rollover. Oversteer can also lead to a spin. (See Japanese Stop Sales of 2010 Lexus GX460 )

“Our engineers have conducted tests to confirm the VSC performance issue raised by Consumer Reports, and we are confident this VSC software update addresses the concern,” said Steve St. Angelo, Toyota chief quality officer for North America, without offering any explanation about how the calibration of a critical electronic control system could have been released if it is so ineffective.


Toyota to Pay $16 Million NHTSA Fine

Japanese company in effect pleads guilty to violating U.S. law.

by on Apr.19, 2010

Toyota Motor Corporation has agreed to pay a $16.375 million fine – the largest fine permitted by law – for failing to notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of a dangerous pedal defect for almost four months.

Under U.S. law, a company has five days to notify  safety regulators that it has identified a serious defect. However, Toyota executives in the U.S. do not have the authority to actually recall vehicles. Instead, recall authority remains at corporate headquarters in Nagoya, Japan.

This penalty is for “sticky pedal” and “slow to return pedal” defects, which resulted in Toyota’s recall of approximately 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. in late January. Other Toyota actions and potential coverups are still under investigation.

Critics contend that the fine is paltry, given the billions of dollars of profits that Toyota extracts from the U.S. market annually, and the seriousness of the offense.

“By failing to report known safety problems as it is required to do under the law, Toyota put consumers at risk,” said Secretary LaHood, who is responsible  for NHTSA, where its lack of action in Toyota safety matters has also come under criticism.