Wed, Dec 22, 2010 - Page 10 News List

Toyota Motor agrees to US$32m fine in response to two US safety probes

Reuters, WASHINGTON and TOKYO

Toyota Motor has agreed to pay the maximum fine of US$32.4 million related to two US probes into its handling of a spate vehicle recalls that hurt sales and tarnished its once impeccable reputation for quality.

The settlements conclude a tumultuous year for the world’s largest automaker over the recalls of 11 million vehicles in the US and disclosure of problems blamed by safety advocates for hundreds of crashes and the deaths of dozens of people.

CRISIS

The crisis prompted unprecedented government scrutiny over unintended acceleration complaints, a total of three heavy fines, and a loss of prestige and consumer confidence in Toyota’s best-selling cars.

“I am pleased that Toyota agreed to pay the maximum possible penalty and I expect Toyota to work cooperatively in the future to ensure consumer safety,” US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement that accompanied the late night announcement in Washington on Monday.

Toyota said it agreed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fines without admitting any violation of law.

BOOSTING SALES

Toyota said separately yesterday it planned to boost its group-wide global vehicle sales by 3 percent to 8.61 million units next year, led by 9 percent growth in the US to 1.90 million vehicles.

Toyota was the worst performer among major automakers in the US this year, with a rise of just 0.2 percent in its single biggest market, which expanded 11.2 percent in the year to date.

Toyota is counting on sales growth of between 7 percent and 9 percent in China, North America and Europe, and an 11 percent rise in Asia to make up for an estimated 17 percent drop in its domestic sales next year.

It expects parent-only sales, which exclude minivehicle unit Daihatsu Motor and truck unit Hino Motors, to rise 3 percent to 7.7 million vehicles next year.

INSUFFICIENT ACTION

With the latest fines, Toyota has agreed to pay almost US$50 million to US regulators this year, including a US$16.4 million fine, the maximum allowed, in April. That was over allegations it failed to notify the government in a timely way about gas pedals that would not spring back as designed.

The two latest fines involved recalls and allegations by the US government that initial action taken by Toyota to address safety problems earlier this decade was insufficient and the required notification of problems to regulators was not timely, as required by law.

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