Toyota agrees to $US16m fine over faults
Toyota agrees to $US16m fine over faults

Japanese auto giant Toyota has agreed to pay the US government a fine of more than $US16 million ($A17.36 million) for concealing accelerator pedal defects, a senior US government official has announced.

"By paying the full civil penalty, Toyota is accepting responsibility for hiding the safety defect ... in violation of the law," the official told Agence France-Presse late yesterday.

A Toyota spokesman declined to comment. But a well-informed source told AFP the company was expected to sign the necessary legal documents today.

"They've agreed to pay the maximum fine in record time, the most we can get," the source said.

"They have 30 days to pay."

Earlier this month, the US Department of Transportation said it was seeking "the maximum civil penalty of $US16.375 million ($A17.77 million) against Toyota" after it failed to report its safety defects in a timely manner.

Toyota had failed to report "the dangerous 'sticky pedal' defect for at least four months, despite knowing of the potential risk to consumers," said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the department's watchdog.

It is the largest civil fine against an automaker ever sought by the NHTSA.

Toyota has recalled about 2.3 million cars in the United States for the pedal defect.

Worldwide it has recalled more than eight million cars worldwide over several problems, including the sticking accelerator pedal which caused cars to speed out of control.

Toyota had until Monday to agree to pay the fine, or contest it. If the two parties had not agreed a settlement, the matter could have gone to court.

The sudden acceleration problem allegedly caused by the accelerator pedal defects has been blamed for more than 50 deaths in the United States, and Toyota faces a slew of legal challenges in US courts.

The automaker has been hit with at least 97 lawsuits seeking damages for injury or death linked to sudden acceleration and 138 class action lawsuits from customers suing to recoup losses in the resale value of Toyota vehicles.

A San Diego court recently heard arguments from two dozen lawyers across the United States who want to consolidate the lawsuits into one multibillion-dollar case in a single jurisdiction.

In March the US government announced a series of investigations into the causes of "unintended acceleration" in Toyota and other brands of cars, calling in NASA engineers to help.

Toyota executives were hauled over the coals in the US Congress earlier this year and the company's previously stellar reputation for safety was left in tatters.

The West Australian

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