US government criminal charge against Toyota
Toyota Motor Corporation admitted to misleading consumers and the U.S. regulator about safety issues related to unintended acceleration in its cars.
Toyota defrauded consumers in 2009 and 2010 by issuing misleading statements about safety issues in Toyota and Lexus vehicles.
The $1.2bn (£720m) fine is the largest penalty of its kind ever imposed on a car company.
In agreement with prosecutors the company will also be subject to an independent monitor to review and assess policies, practices and procedures relating to Toyota’s safety-related public statements and reporting.
“Toyota stands charged with a criminal offence because it cared more about savings than safety and more about its own brand and bottom line than the truth,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York.
“In its zeal to stanch bad publicity in 2009 and 2010, Toyota misled regulators, misled customers, and even misstated the facts to Congress. The tens of millions of drivers in America have an absolute right to expect that the companies manufacturing their cars are not lying about serious safety issues; are not slow-walking safety fixes; and are not playing games with their lives. Companies that make inherently dangerous products must be maximally transparent, not two-faced. That is why we have undertaken this landmark enforcement action. And the entire auto industry should take notice.”
A statement on the Department of Justice website stated:
"In 2009, Toyota deceived consumers and its U.S. regulator by claiming that it had “addressed” the “root cause” of unintended acceleration in its vehicles through a limited safety recall of eight models for floor-mat entrapment, a dangerous condition in which an improperly secured or incompatible all-weather floor mat can “trap” a depressed gas pedal causing the car to accelerate to a high speed. Such public assurances deceived customers and NHTSA in two ways: First, at the time the statements were made, Toyota knew that it had not recalled some cars with design features that made them just as susceptible to floor-mat entrapment as some of the recalled cars. Second, only weeks before these statements were made, Toyota had taken steps to hide from NHTSA another type of unintended acceleration in its vehicles, separate and apart from floor-mat entrapment: a problem with accelerators getting stuck at partially depressed levels, known as “sticky pedal.”
These statements came after a fatal crashed that caused the death of at least four people.
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