Toyota Motors North American production levels to return 100% in Sep
Toyota Motors North American production levels to return 100% in Sep Reuters

Toyota Motor Corporation has agreed to pay $32.4 million in fines to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over delays in reporting safety defects in its vehicles on two separate occasions.

The NHTSA's fines stem from the two separate investigations into the automaker's handling of recalling vehicles. The NHTSA has ordered Toyota to pay $16.4 million for failing to timely notify the agency that unsecured, incompatible or improperly installed floor mats could cause accelerator pedals to become trapped and a $16 million fine for delays in reporting faulty steering relay rods, which would have led loss of steering control.

This is not the first time Toyota has failed to report safety defects to the NHTSA within the five business days, as required by law. Earlier this month in April, the company had paid $16.4 million in fines after the regulator discovered it had waited four months to inform the agency of 'sticky pedal' and 'slow to return pedal' defects.

Automakers are required to report any safety defects to NHTSA swiftly, and we expect them to do so, said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland in a statement. NHTSA acknowledges Toyota's efforts to make improvements to its safety culture, and our agency will continue to hold all automakers accountable for defects to protect consumers' safety.

Toyota has announced that the two settlement agreements with the NHTSA related to the timeliness without admitting to any violation of its obligations under the U.S. Safety Act.

Toyota is pleased to have resolved these legacy issues related to the timeliness of prior recalls dating back to 2005. All 30,000 of our U.S. team members, and the tens of thousands of Americans at dealers and suppliers across the country, have worked very hard over the past year to put these issues behind us and set a new standard of responsiveness to our customers, said Steve St. Angelo, Toyota's chief quality officer for North America in a statement.

These agreements are an opportunity to turn the page to an even more constructive relationship with NHTSA and focus even more on listening to our customers and meeting their high expectations for safe and reliable vehicles, Angelo said.

Toyota had initially recalled 55,000 all-weather floor mats on September 26, 2007, after finding the pedal entrapment problem in several of its vehicles.

After a fatal auto crash in California in August 2009, the NHTSA suggested Toyota to remove the floor mats and urged it to redesign the accelerator pedal. Toyota recalled nearly 5 million vehicles in 2009 and 2010 to address the problem.

According to the agency's statement, NHTSA had investigated whether Toyota had properly notified the agency of a safety defect in several models that could result in the loss of steering control.

In 2004, Toyota recalled Hilux trucks with steering relay rods that were prone to cracking and breaking, causing the vehicle to lose steering control. However, at that time, the company informed the NHTSA that the safety defect was isolated to vehicles in Japan.

But in 2005, Toyota reported to the agency that the steering relay rod defect was present in several models sold in the U.S. and the company recalled nearly a million vehicles.

In May 2010, the NHTSA found that Toyota had hid from the agency a number of complaints from U.S. customers that some of its vehicles sold in the U.S. were fitted with defective steering relay rods.

St. Angelo did not explain why Toyota had failed to report the matter to the NHTSA but assured that the company's North American operations now have a greater voice in making safety decisions, and we are taking appropriate action whenever any issues emerge.

We've substantially strengthened our ability to investigate customer concerns through our rapid-response SMART evaluation process and other measures, St. Angelo said.