Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Monday, April 5, 2010 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will seek the largest civil penalty possible against Toyota.
In January, Toyota recalled 2.3 million U.S. vehicles for “sticky gas pedals” that were blamed for some incidents of sudden acceleration. The NHTSA determined that Toyota knew of the defects at least 4 months before the recall.
Toyota has issued three separate recalls in recent months for floor mats that don’t fit, sticky pedals and software issues. The handling of each recall is being investigated by the NHTSA.
The federal penalty for failing to notify regulators of a safety defect is $6,000 a car. However, there is a $16.4 million dollar cap on fines. If there were no cap, Toyota could be fined $13.8 billion. As the government continues its investigation, they are considering additional fines.
Toyota is currently facing at least 177 consumer and shareholder lawsuits seeking class-action status and at least 57 individual lawsuits claiming personal injury or deaths caused by sudden acceleration events.The lawsuits will be combined and tried in federal court near the Toyota U.S. headquarters in Torrance, California.