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NHTSA Fines Toyota for Failure to Timely Report Auto Defects

Craig McClellan

If your car might have a defect, you want to know about it immediately. You want automakers to fix that defect so that you can feel safe on the road.

For our safety, the federal government has specific rules in place regarding when automakers must notify car owners of defects and start recall campaigns. In fact, federal statutes require automakers to start recalls and contact the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration no more than five days after they find an automotive defect.

When automakers fail to follow the rules, they can face large fines from the NHTSA. Worse yet, more accidents could occur from the defects. Due to its failure to act, Toyota Motor Corporation is now facing the largest auto-safety fine ever recorded: $17.35 million.

The NHTSA fined Toyota after it failed to start a timely recall campaign involving the 2010 Lexus RX350 floor mats. The NHTSA contacted the automaker in May 2012, but Toyota did not send a reply to the NHTSA or start recall proceedings until June. The $17.35 million is greater than each fine Toyota received for the well-publicized Toyota acceleration case. In that case, the NHTSA fined Toyota $16.375 million in two separate actions , and $16 million in another, for failure to notify the NHTSA of the acceleration problems.

It appears the 2010 fines against Toyota were not enough to convince the company to start recall proceedings on time, which equates to putting safety on the back burner. The June Lexus RX350 recall involved floor mats that could trap gas pedals and cause unintended acceleration.

While no deaths have been reported from the Lexus RX250 defects, traffic fatalities and injuries caused by automotive defects are not uncommon. Unfortunately, the defects may not be apparent until after an accident has occurred. In those cases, victims can hold carmakers accountable through product liability lawsuits.