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Ford, Toyota, GM: Comparing the Fines

(Toyota story updated with LaHood's latest thoughts on Toyota's safety control measures and company statement on progress with remedying recalled vehicles)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood seems to be warming up to Toyota (TM - Get Report) after levying a huge fine against the automaker for being slow to notify authorities of its dangerous "sticky pedal" problems, despite being aware of the problems.

Speaking at a press conference after meeting with Toyota's president Akio Toyoda at the company's headquarters in Japan, LaHood expressed encouragement by the company's efforts to improve its quality control measures since Toyoda's harrowing visit to the U.S. capital in February, where he was grilled by angry congressional members over the automaker's auto safety defects and massive recalls. However, LaHood says he's still looking for continued improvement in the company's safety mechanisms.

LaHood's department is still in the process of investigating page after page of documents handed over by the firm to determine whether to charge Toyota additional fines.

Although Toyota continues to be the poster child of much of what hasn't been going right in the auto sector, the automaker appears determined to win back the public's favor, whether through aggressive customer incentive campaigns, expensive PR maneuvers or the overt verbalization of its progress on fixing its vehicle safety issues -- most recently with the announcement of passing a 3 million milestone in implementing recall remedies and significantly expanding its number of event-data recorder readout devices in North America.

On May 5 the automaker announced that it has expanded the number of event data recorder readout devices in North America and the U.S. territories to 150 and is actively training internal and field staff on their use. These devices record specific vehicle information in the event of air bag deployment or sufficient impact, and are intended to help understand how a vehicle's various systems functioned in a crash, Toyota said.

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