Ray LaHood: Toyota Motor Corp. ‘Knowingly Hid a Dangerous Defect’

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in an email statement to Bloomberg News that Toyota (TM) may face the maximum civil penalty of $16.4 million from the U.S. because it “knowingly hid a dangerous defect” that caused sudden acceleration.

Bloomberg: “We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations,” LaHood said. “Worse 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.”

Toyota in January recalled about 2.3 million cars and trucks for a flaw in the design in its electronic acceleration system which can trigger sudden speed surges. The Toyota City-based carmaker has recalled more than 6 million vehicles in the U.S. and more than 8 million worldwide.

Toyota has two weeks to accept or contest the $16.4 penalty. If it contests the fine, the largest single federal fine against an automaker, and the two sides are unable to reach a settlement, “it would go to court,” Bloomberg said, citing a Transportation Department spokeswoman.

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