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Feds: We Had To Force Toyota Into Recall

Posted: Feb 03, 2010 10:02 a.m.

Toyota is busy trying to repair its public image after one of the most high-profile safety recalls in history, but U.S. government officials aren’t helping. Federal safety regulators have announced that they may penalize Toyota for its failure to take action, and toughen safety rules to keep automakers from behaving like Toyota in the future. To make matters worse for the automaker, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation just called the Japanese automaker “a little safety deaf.”

It’s going to take a lot of donuts to fix this.

The Detroit News reports, “Government regulators may take a more urgent and tougher position on recalls, following Toyota's callback of millions of vehicles.” Toyota’s resistance to recall vehicles is nothing new in the industry. “Automakers have often resisted recalls, acting only when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is poised to order them. At other times, they have fought them off completely or argued to scale them back.” 

But Toyota’s reluctance in the face of reports of a potentially deadly defect means that “things may change for good for NHTSA as well as for the automakers. The NHTSA is considering issuing civil penalties in Toyota's handling of the back-to-back recalls. It also is likely that the agency will act more quickly to enforce future ‘stop sales,’ like the one ordered by Toyota, if automakers don't have a fix.”

Kicking Tires notes, “Toyota may have known about the pedal issue as early as 2007.”  Massachusetts-based safety advocacy group Safety & Research Strategies says it “has collected more than 2,000 complaints linked to unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.”

The government’s top automotive authority, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, says that U.S. had a hard time getting Toyota to act, CNN reports. “While Toyota is taking responsible action now, it unfortunately took an enormous effort to get to this point,” LaHood said in a statement. “Department of Transportation officials flew to Japan in December to remind Toyota management about its legal obligations and followed up with a meeting at DOT headquarters in January to insist that they address the accelerator pedal issue.” 

LaHood, Autoblog adds, called Toyota “a little safety deaf,” and said that regulators are monitoring the company’s actions closely. “We're not finished with Toyota,” LaHood added, “and are continuing to review possible defects and monitor the implementation of the recalls.”

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