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  (Source: Sting Ray Studios)

Toyota has recalled millions of vehicles, including the best-selling Camry for unintended acceleration problems. Toyota has now received a massive fine for trying to deceive U.S. federal regulators.  (Source: Torque Report)
Fine is largest in U.S. history against an automaker

The atmosphere at the U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday was tense as Secretary Ray LaHood slammed Japanese automaker Toyota.  Lahood announced, "We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligationsWorse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families."

Defects are an automaker's eternal enemy.  Every year thousands, if not millions of vehicles are recalled for defects.  Toyota's critical problem was not so much the defects itself -- despite the massive number of vehicles involved.  Rather, Toyota's key mistake was the dangerous game of deception it reportedly played.

According to documents obtained from Toyota, the company began a recall on "sticky pedals" in September of last year in Canada and Europe.  However, it failed to inform U.S. regulators of the problem, and made no effort to launch a recall of the effected vehicles until it came under heavy fire in January.

That constitutes a gross violation of federal safety guidelines, which demand that an automaker inform the U.S. federal regulators within five days of discovering a defect.

As a result, the DOT has thrown the book at Toyota, proposing a $16.4M USD, the maximum penalty allowed under the law.  That fine far surpasses the biggest previous fine against an automaker -- $1M USD sum levied against General Motors for failing to promptly recall windshield wipers in 2002-2003 model vehicles.

Toyota has two weeks decide its response.  Despite the reportedly conclusive evidence, the Asian automaker is expected to appeal the decision, perhaps seeking a smaller fine.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) continues to investigate the sticky accelerators, unsatisfied with Toyota's claim that floor mats were solely to blame.  NHTSA is looking at a host of mechanical and electrical elements for bugs, and is even examining whether cosmic rays could play a role, with the help of experts from NASA.

The government continues to investigate Toyota's behavior during the recall, as well.  DOT officials said more fines could brought against Toyota if further proof of wrongdoing is revealed.

While the defect mess is unpleasant for all those involved it does raise some interesting questions about governance.  Some say that the government should not police companies, and that the commercial press should be left to investigate reports of defects and inform consumers of safety risk.  Others argue the current system is a successful one.  And still others argue that current regulation does not go far enough -- that the federal government should have the ability to levy even bigger fines against companies who knowingly make products that could endanger U.S. consumers.

Likewise, the 135 pending lawsuits against Toyota raise similar questions.  Some argue that allowing such free litigation against safety critical businesses, such as automakers and healthcare providers allows citizens to take regulation into their own hands.  Others argue that it hinders free enterprise, raising prices, and worse yet leads to bigger government.

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RE: Still Confused
By porkpie on 4/5/2010 11:26:16 PM , Rating: 0
"recall" ... "sticky pedals"

My wife's car was affected by that recall. I believe they changed the hook slightly so the floor mat couldn't slide up...something she's never had happen to her in the nearly 3 years she's had the car.

Not exactly a glaring design flaw, now is it? I think this "recall" was Toyota simply bending over backwards to try to prevent any possible chance of a problem existing.

RE: Still Confused
By DominionSeraph on 4/6/2010 4:52:42 AM , Rating: 1
January 21, 2010 -- Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc, today announced it would recall approximately 2.3 million vehicles to correct sticking accelerator pedals on specific Toyota Division models. This action is separate from the on-going recall of approximately 4.2 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles to reduce the risk of pedal entrapment by incorrect or out of place accessory floor mats. Approximately 1.7 million Toyota Division vehicles are subject to both separate recall actions.

Floor mats was September. Toyota allegedly knew that the pedal was also defective at that time and held off saying anything until January.

RE: Still Confused
By The Raven on 4/6/2010 10:54:09 AM , Rating: 2
How many month did it take the NHTSA to figure out the problem... Oh what? They haven't? Oh my!

They safety mats to me are just like the Wii silicon sleeves. An attempt to shup people up. Like when Audi spaced the brake a little furthur away from the accelerator.

But one thing it doesn't demonstrate is that Toyota didn't care about the safety of their customers.

RE: Still Confused
By DominionSeraph on 4/6/2010 1:43:13 PM , Rating: 2
What the hell kind of idiotic Toyota shill are you? Do you not understand that these were Toyota's calls? Toyota is not arguing floor mats. They are not arguing pedals. Those were THEIR CONCLUSIONS. They implemented THEIR FIXES. This fine isn't about whether or not the fixes presented fix all problems, or even that they do anything at all; the fine is over Toyota hiding their OWN conclusion of, "pedal defect," from US regulators. They are NOT ALLOWED TO DO THAT.

There's nothing in this decision about the electronics.

RE: Still Confused
By porkpie on 4/6/2010 1:45:38 PM , Rating: 2
" Do you not understand that these were Toyota's calls?"

They were, yes. Toyota's wise decision to bend over backwards in the hopes of stemming another mass delusion like the one that crippled Audi sales in the 1980s for an accelerator problem that never existed. It's also a decision made on legal grounds, to help prevent some tort attorney from making billions off Toyota by claiming they "did nothing".

What this action is NOT is any sort of evidence or proof that a problem actually exists.

RE: Still Confused
By DominionSeraph on 4/6/2010 3:19:16 PM , Rating: 2

Audi got some relief from the 1989 study that blamed driver's errors. The researchers found that electronic faults in the idle-control systems of Audi 5000s could cause a short-term power surge that could startle drivers into hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake. The researchers also said the close placement of pedals in the Audi 5000—which were of a different size and configuration than many Detroit models— could lead drivers to mistake the gas for the brake.

That doesn't sound nonexistent to me.
If a car is built in such a way that it doesn't fit the drivers, that's a problem.

Build a motorcycle with the front brake lever on the left and the clutch on the right, and I foresee a lot of accidents coming out of first. It would not technically be defective, but it would still be a smart move to switch things to the standard configuration.

RE: Still Confused
By DominionSeraph on 4/6/2010 3:20:11 PM , Rating: 2
^^ nothing to do with Toyota.

RE: Still Confused
By porkpie on 4/6/2010 4:00:54 PM , Rating: 1
"If a car is built in such a way that it doesn't fit the drivers, that's a problem."

Ah, so in your opinion, compact and subcompact car on the planet has a serious design flaw, because obese people have a problem fitting inside them?

There was no problem with the Audi. It was driver error, plain and simple...fed by a irresponsible media looking for a story.

RE: Still Confused
By DominionSeraph on 4/6/2010 4:30:00 PM , Rating: 2
If obese people had trouble getting into such cars, they wouldn't exist in the American market.

RE: Still Confused
By porkpie on 4/6/2010 4:49:00 PM , Rating: 2
"If obese people had trouble getting into such cars, they wouldn't exist in the American market."

I'm surprised you managed to type that wanker without spraining a finger. Are you seriously claiming that a severely obese person doesn't have trouble fitting into a subcompact? There are people so large they can't even fit easily into a Tahoe, much less a Mini-Cooper.

RE: Still Confused
By DominionSeraph on 4/6/2010 4:31:53 PM , Rating: 1
And yes, faulty operation is a problem.

Stop forcing your logic.

RE: Still Confused
By mino on 4/6/2010 11:17:52 PM , Rating: 2
Sory to be rude, but if the drivers would RTFM, there would not be any problem.

Here in Europe if something like that(the AUDI issue) happened to me, everybody would laugh me of as an idiot who should not a have a license in the first place.

It is like the notes to not fry a pet in a microwave ...

RE: Still Confused
By Reclaimer77 on 4/6/2010 11:20:56 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah right. In England you can't even carry your fathers coffin if you aren't a government licensed pallbearer. Because too many people were getting hurt carrying coffins. Europeans should be the LAST to preach about personal accountability and self reliance. You people eat, breath, and sleep according to regulations.

RE: Still Confused
By EasyC on 4/8/2010 1:11:53 PM , Rating: 2
Well in Europe, the government doesn't have a vested interest in a direct competitor to no, it wouldn't be blown out like it is here.

RE: Still Confused
By The Raven on 4/7/2010 2:08:44 PM , Rating: 2
It wouldn't sound non-existant if that paragraph made any sense.

The researchers found that electronic faults in the idle-control systems of Audi 5000s could cause a short-term power surge that could startle drivers into hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake.

Were there electronic faults that somehow were hard wired into the drivers' brains? What does this quote even mean?

Fact is that your quote boils down to what's in the bold; driver error.

RE: Still Confused
By The Raven on 4/7/2010 4:40:43 PM , Rating: 2
Regarding the shill accusation:
I work for a Toyota subsidiary that sells materials to all major auto manufacturers. I have no allegience to Toyota except that they treat me and my co-workers fairly and with respect. My allegiance is to the American people. And if the American people want headlights and taillights, I am here for them. The job opening was just here so I gave it a shot. I have been here 2 years and have learned much about the auto industry even though I just import materials used in manufacturing the lighting fixtures and have no hand in design or whether the cars can stop or not :-P.

But any of that aside, the reason that I don't like the smell of the whole affair is that I don't like gov't in our business. Especially the feds. So though I MIGHT be slightly biased toward Toyota, that issue far outweighs any bias I might have. And I have zero bias for Audi. My dad's A4 fell apart pretty bad. I go with Honda for the most part.

But I agree with you that Toyota failed to report their findings directly to the US gov't. This is breaking the law. Is this whole thing not a circus then? No. It is a circus. To me this is like when I got a ticket for having expired tags. I was registered. But I forgot to put them on as we were going through the childbirth thing. But some a-hole saw my car parked there with tags that expired 2 months prior, and bam! I'm out $75 (if I remember correctly)
Did I break the law? Yes. Should they have honored my appeal because of the childbith. I think so.

So if they didn't report this, do you think they should have to pay the maximum penalty for some alleged neglegiance? It all smells of bad politics. Whether it is because GM is owned by the US gov't now or because Obama needs money to fund his health care plan, I don't know. (and I'd say the same thing about Bush and his war or whatever the hell) But it certainly does not seem right. And I'm sure Toyota won't fight it because of legal fees, and so it just amounts to extortion.

And I'm sorry that I pulled the 'Wii' example out on you without explaining. Nintendo voluntarily gave those sleeves out.

I hope that all clarifies some of my ranting.

RE: Still Confused
By DominionSeraph on 4/8/2010 9:05:24 AM , Rating: 2
Well, the Federal Government isn't a singular entity. Just because Congress is a bunch of clowns doesn't mean the DOT is retarded.

RE: Still Confused
By The Raven on 4/8/2010 10:23:18 AM , Rating: 2
Look let me just calm myself...

I am not an anarchist. (FYI that post is fallacy.)

Do you think this is not a case of the US gov't taking a swipe at Toyota (for whatever reason)?

I would think that the max penalty would be for some company who intentionally endangered people on our road ways. Not someone who showed enough concern as to try to fix the problems.

But even if you don't agree, that is fine. My opinion is that the gov't is doing TOO MUCH here. I am not calling for the head of LaHood or his department.

RE: Still Confused
By Davelo on 4/6/2010 12:21:51 PM , Rating: 2
It's not the floor mats or the pedal. That's only what Toyota wants you to believe. Fixing drive by wire systems would cost them a fortune.

RE: Still Confused
By porkpie on 4/6/2010 1:18:50 PM , Rating: 2
Your tinfoil hat is on a bit too tight, I believe. When you finish checking your lawn for black helicopters, you may want to adjust it.

RE: Still Confused
By Davelo on 4/6/2010 1:38:45 PM , Rating: 2
Toyota paid hack?

RE: Still Confused
By Wulf145 on 4/7/2010 4:19:36 AM , Rating: 2
If it is a fault in the drive by wire system, why are the only reported cases of unintended acceleration all in N. Amerika. AFAIK the drive by wire system is not N.Amerika specific.

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