Toyota is closing yet another chapter in its long unintended-acceleration saga, agreeing to pay $29 million to 29 states and American Samoa to settle disputes about how it handled recalls.
Besides the payment, Toyota agreed to make vehicle information more easily accessible to consumers to help them operate their vehicles safely and make more informed choices.
“Companies have an obligation to quickly and openly inform customers of product safety concerns,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said. “That’s particularly true of an automobile maker, where consumers’ lives may be at stake.”
Toyota sought to put a positive spin on the settlement.
“Resolving this inquiry is another step we are taking to turn the page on legacy issues from Toyota’s past recalls in a way that benefits our customers," said Christopher P. Reynolds, group vice president and general counsel, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. "Immediately after this inquiry was launched in 2010, Toyota began cooperating fully with the Attorneys General and implementing ‘customer-first’ initiatives to address their concerns and those of our customers."
Toyota also agreed to continue other customer-focused initiatives, including its rapid-response service teams, its expanded network of product quality field offices across the U.S., and a range of customer care amenities for owners of vehicles subject to certain recalls.
In December 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fined Toyota $17.35 million -- the maximum fine allowable under the law -- claiming the automaker failed to report a safety defect to the federal government in a timely manner. It's the single highest civil penalty amount ever paid to NHTSA for violations stemming from a recall.
Also in December, Toyota agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle lawsuits growing out of unintended acceleration incidents. About 16 million owners of Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles are eligible for payments and safety updates to their cars.
Toyota recalled millions of Toyota and Lexus vehicles to replace accelerator pedals that could get trapped in floor mats or carpeting.
A 10-month investigation by NASA engineers determined that electronic flaws were not to blame for the unintended acceleration incidents.