By Silla Brush - 04/05/10 08:03 PM EDT
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the fines were related to the carmaker's failure to notify federal regulators about "sticky pedals" for four months despite knowing about the risk to consumers.
LaHood said in a statement that the fine would be the largest civil penalty for an auto manufacturer issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a federal regulator. Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles in the United States and more than 8 million worldwide.
“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. For those reasons, we are seeking the maximum penalty possible under current laws.”
Toyota and federal regulators have testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Commerce Committee.
Toyota's president, an heir to the carmaker's founder, had a high-profile appearance earlier this year before the Oversight panel, in which he issued an apology.