Ken Thomas, Associated Press
Tomoko A. Hosaka, Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. has agreed to pay the U.S. government a record $32.4 million in additional fines to settle an investigation into its handling of two recalls at the heart of its safety crisis.
The civil penalties will settle investigations into how Toyota dealt with recalls over accelerator pedals that could get trapped in floor mats and steering relay rods that could break and lead to drivers losing control.
The latest settlement, on top of a $16.4 million fine Toyota paid earlier in a related investigation, brings the total penalties levied on the company to $48.8 million. It caps a difficult year for the world's No. 1 automaker, which recalled more than 11 million vehicles globally since the fall of 2009 as it scrambled to protect its reputation for safety and reliability.
Toyota's board of directors agreed to pay the fines on Tuesday at the company's board meeting in Japan, according to an official familiar with the case, and the company said it agreed to the penalties without admitting to any violations of U.S. laws. However, that does not free Toyota from potential civil and criminal penalties in private lawsuits and other federal investigations.
The person had spoken Monday on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement.
Steve St. Angelo, Toyota's chief quality officer for North America, said in a statement that the company has "worked very hard over the past year to put these issues behind us and set a new standard of responsiveness to our customers. These agreements are an opportunity to turn the page to an even more constructive relationship with NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)."
He said Toyota was grateful to its customers for "their confidence in the quality and reliability of our vehicles."
In April, Toyota agreed to pay the maximum fine allowed under law for a single case — $16.4 million — for failing to promptly alert U.S. regulators to safety problems over sticking accelerator pedals. Under federal law, automakers must notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration within five days of determining that a safety defect exists and promptly conduct a recall.