Toyota announced today that the United States government has slapped them with the largest fine allowed under federal law. The amount? A staggering $17.35 million dollars! The amount was in part of the settlement, due to them not issuing the Toyota recall for the 2010 Lexus RX 350 and 450h crossover vehicles in a timely manner (the Toyota recall was issued back in June 2010).
The Toyota recall for the RX series was a part of the massive unintended acceleration recall, in which Toyota repaired both the accelerator pedal and the sliding floor mats. They claim that these simple fixes have solved the issue, but not everyone is convinced.
This has been the fourth maximum fine that Toyota has paid thus far, with the total being well over $65 million dollars at this point, in response for the delays in issuing recalls for their vehicles. So far, it’s for the unintended acceleration fiasco, but I look for more fines being levied against Toyota in the near future.
As a part of the settlement, Toyota has agreed to improved the internal procedures for tracking and recording complaints about defects. It’s rather bizarre that this isn’t a part of their Lean manufacturing process, since any worker on the assembly line can stop production to identify and repair any issue. Also, Toyota will have to be proactive, in regards to following up with external complaints about possible defects.
“In order to avoid a time-consuming dispute” was the official response as to why they agreed to the settlement on the Toyota recall, according to Ray Tanguay, chief quality officer of Toyota North America. He further stated that Toyota will “continue to strengthen our data collection and evaluation process to ensure we are prepared to take swift action to meet customers’ needs.”
According to federal law, automakers have five business days to report any possible safety defect to the federal government regulators. In particular, NHTSA was investigating complaints concerning these specific crossover vehicles. During the investigation, they had contacted Toyota in May of 2010, but Toyota did not report the eventual 63 incidents of the floor mats trapping the accelerator pedals (which lead to the massive Toyota recall) until June.