Toyota Motor Corp. agreed to pay $1.2 billion in connection with consumer reports of sudden and unintended acceleration, which led to the recall of more than 10 million vehicles.
Part of the $1.2 billion dollar deal includes full admission of wrongdoing, payment of the assessed fees, and a rigorous review by an independent monitor.
Toyota is also being charged with wire fraud, suspected of intentionally concealing information and misleading the public.
“Toyota confronted a public safety emergency as if it were a simple public relations problem”, said Attorney General Eric Holder, in an address to the Justice Department.
The settlement marks the largest criminal penalty imposed on an automaker in the United States.
Christopher P. Reynolds, Toyota’s chief legal officer, said that the company “took full responsibility” for its actions.
“In the more than four years since these recalls, we have gone back to basics at Toyota to put our customers first,” he said in a statement. “We have made fundamental changes across our global operations to become a more responsive company — listening better to our customers’ needs and proactively taking action to serve them.”
Early on, Toyota had suggested that driver error was to blame, and even after issuing recalls for problematic floor mats, the company hid a flawed gas pedal design which they knew caused acceleration problems.
Toyota received evidence over a number of months pointing to the pedal problem, and quietly made plans to address it without informing the general public.
“Rather than promptly disclosing and correcting safety issues about which they were aware, Toyota made misleading public statements to consumers and gave inaccurate facts to members of Congress,” said Holder.
Toyota also faces almost 400 wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits related to the problem.
Some still don’t believe this is enough. Calling for executive jail time from the deaths associated with the acceleration issues.
What are your thoughts? Should Toyota executives be held responsible for these deaths? Are the penalties enough? Should Toyota have disclosed all evidence earlier, and if it did, would it have saved lives?