The United States government is fining Toyota $16.375 million for failing to promptly notify it about defective gas pedals in its cars. The fine is the maximum the government could have sought, and is a record for an automaker.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Monday that documents obtained from Toyota showed that it knew of the problem in September, but did not issue a recall until January. Under federal law, automakers have five days to notify the government of a safety problem that could lead to a recall. LaHood said in a statement:
"We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations. Worse yet, 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."
This fine is only for the sticky gas pedal problem, which affected 2.3 million cars. It could face further punishment for other possible defects as the government's investigation goes on. Toyota recalled more than 6 million cars in the U.S. because of the gas pedal problem in several models, as well as the high profile braking issue in the Prius.
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Toyota has not yet responded. It has two weeks to either accept the penalty, or challenge it. In contrast, the previous record fine was $1 million against General Motors for failing to report a windshield wiper problem.