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U.S. probes Toyota recall, could levy $16.4M fine if carmaker acted too slowly

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U.S. probes Toyota recall, could levy $16.4M fine if carmaker acted too slowly



Federal safety regulators are asking Toyota to show how quickly it initiated three recalls after learning of the underlying safety risk, with the leverage of a $16.4 million fine if they determine Toyota was too slow.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is demanding Toyota documents that will show when and how it discovered the defects that led to three recalls of about 6 million vehicles in the U.S. Federal law requires all auto manufacturers to notify NHTSA within five days of determining that a safety defect exists and promptly conduct a recall.

"Safety recalls are very serious matters and automakers are required to quickly report defects," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

At least one of Toyota’s senior executives, possibly President Akio Toyoda, is expected to testify before Congress beginning Feb. 24.

“Toyota takes its responsibility to advance vehicle safety seriously and to alert government officials of any safety issue in a timely manner,” Toyota said in a statement. “We are reviewing NHTSA's request and will cooperate to provide all the information they have requested.”

Toyota has initiated three recalls covering various Toyota and Lexus models. The automaker announced the first on Sept. 26, 2009, which related to the possible entrapment of gas pedals by floor mats. That recall was expanded on Oct. 6, 2009 to include additional vehicles. A third recall, relating to possibly sticking gas pedals, was announced Jan. 21.

Toyota suspended sales and production of eight models on Jan. 26. Dealers have repaired gas pedals on at least 500,000 of the 2.3 million vehicles covered by the recall for possibly sticking pedals. Production on the eight models resumed Feb. 8.

NHTSA will examine how the manufacturer learned of these defects, such as through consumer complaints or factory testing. Officials are checking whether Toyota has covered all affected models in its recent recalls to ensure Toyota did not miss any problems. The agency will obtain information on production data, incidents, complaints, warranty complaints, copies of tests, dates of meetings, timelines, and supplier information.



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