Monday, April 19, 2010

Toyota agrees to pay $16 million fine to U.S. regulators

So, what's up with Toyota? News that the Japanese automaker had agreed to pay a $16.4 million fine to U.S. regulators over sticky gas pedals in millions of its cars is Toyota Motor Corp. appears almost outrageously integral and honest, but that only makes things even weirder. Can anyone remember another time when a large, multinational corporation did the selfless thing in favor of its customers? Then again, can anyone remember another high-profile industrial company that so quickly ruined a sterling reputation it had earned over the years with high-quality products? Maybe Toyota's decision to pay the fine and focus instead on fixing millions of its cars and compensating victims really is an act of corporate contrition, and not a calculated attempt to limit future liability like we've all come to expect from U.S. companies. Then again, Toyota's present liabilities are bad enough. Legal experts say Toyota already could be facing $10 billion in damage claims, according to the New York Times. The U.S. fine was imposed to punish Toyota for failing to inform federal safety regulators for months about the sticky accelerator problem, even though it already had enough reports about the problem from car owners in Europe and Canada to have started fixing vehicles there, the Times said. "We did not try to hide the defect to avoid dealing with a safety problem," Toyota said in a written statement, even though that appears to be exactly what happened. Toyota said it had made a "good faith" effort to fix the problems but agreed to pay the penalty anyway to avoid a long legal fight. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Toyota had put consumers at risk by failing to report the defective accelerator pedal problem and that U.S. officials would continue with their investigation, the Times said.

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