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Lexus SUV software to get fix

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Lexus SUV software to get fix

Toyota will pay $16.4-million fine to U.S.



Toyota will recall 9,400 Lexus GX460 SUVs to change the software controlling an anti-skid feature that Consumer Reports said last week was too slow to prevent rollover accidents in certain maneuvers.

This is the sixth Toyota recall since November. While a small number of vehicles are affected, the action came on the same day the automaker agreed to pay a record $16.4-million fine for failing to tell federal safety regulators about unintended acceleration problems in a variety of vehicles.

Lexus dealers are to be prepared to provide the new software by the end of the month.

Last Friday, Toyota recalled 600,000 Sienna minivans to fix a possible corrosion problem with a cable that secures the spare tire.

Between November and late January, Toyota recalled nearly 6 million vehicles in the U.S. with defects that could trigger unintended acceleration.

The Lexus GX460 is important because it spreads the broadening questions of Toyota's once-invincible quality reputation to its luxury division, which has been unaffected by most other recalls.

The remedy is the second time in less than three months that Toyota said a recall problem can be fixed by updating software. Toyota recalled about 300,000 of its 2010 Prius hybrids in February to change software controlling the brakes.

The automaker, however, steadfastly denies that electronic problems are linked to unintended acceleration.

"Toyota engineers have rigorously and repeatedly tested Toyota's electronic throttle-control system under both normal and abnormal conditions including electromagnetic interference and have never found a single case of unintended acceleration due to a defect in the system," said Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons.

The $16.4-million fine is the largest the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has levied against any automaker. The agency notified Toyota two weeks ago of the civil penalty for delaying for four months after discovering the defect that may cause the unintended acceleration.

On Jan. 21, the company recalled 2.3 million vehicles to repair potentially sticky pedals that could trigger the problem. Toyota, which had about $23 billion in cash at the end of 2009, has 30 days to pay the fine.

"I am pleased that Toyota has accepted responsibility for violating its legal obligations to report any defects promptly," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

But Toyota denied violating any federal safety law. That means paying the fine will not be a legally binding admission of liability in future lawsuits, said Matt Cairns, a product liability attorney in Concord, N.H.

Toyota faces at least 57 lawsuits claiming injuries or deaths caused by sudden acceleration incidents in Toyota vehicles. U.S. District Judge James Selna will hold a May 13 hearing in Santa Ana, Calif., to find an efficient way to hear those cases.

Separately, Toyota executives, who have testified before three congressional hearings this year, are to appear May 6 before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has asked Toyota to provide documents that support its contention that unintended acceleration is not caused by electronic malfunctions.



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