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Toyota Agrees to Pay Fine, But Won't Admit Wrongdoing

Posted: Apr 20, 2010 10:30 a.m.

Toyota has agreed to pay a $16.4 million government fine for waiting several months to notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about its sticky accelerator pedal defect.

According to the Washington Post, “The sanction represents the largest financial penalty imposed by the U.S. government on an automaker.” However, they add that the proposed fine is “relatively small for an automaker that reported revenue of more than $200 billion last year, consumer advocates said.”

Still, the fine is the maximum amount allowable under law. The Detroit News explains, “If there wasn't a cap on fines, NHTSA said it could have assessed a $6,000 per vehicle penalty -- or $13.8 billion.”

Though Toyota has agreed to pay the fine, the automaker isn’t admitting any wrongdoing. The Detroit News, which obtained the four-page agreement, says, “In the agreement, Toyota denies wrongdoing, but agreed to make the payment by electronic funds transfer to the U.S. Treasury within 30 days.”

Autoblog elaborates, “Toyota denies that it withheld any pertinent information from NHTSA, saying, ‘We did not try to hide a defect to avoid dealing with a safety problem.’”

Toyota’s denial is more likely a legal move than simply a stubborn refusal to admit guilt. The Los Angeles Times explains: “Toyota is facing scores of personal-injury, product liability and class-action lawsuits in which an admission of guilt could be used as evidence against the company. But refusing to pay the fine could have led to a prolonged and public fight with the Justice Department.”

This new chapter won’t be the last in Toyota’s recall saga. The world’s largest automaker still faces “more than 200 civic lawsuits, a criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York and a probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission in Los Angeles,” adds the Detroit News.

On top of all that, Toyota recently issued a voluntary recall for its Lexus GX 460 after Consumer Reports issued a rare “Don’t Buy” alert due to the SUV’s risk of rollover.

With Toyota’s woes continuing to mount, there’s a small chance the automaker will continue its aggressive incentives for a few more months.

Business Week reports: “There’s no decision yet on whether current offers will be extended beyond May 3, said Celeste Migliore, a spokeswoman for Toyota’s U.S. unit. While the focus on low- cost financing rather than cash rebates will continue, Toyota may shift to setting incentives by region in the U.S. instead of one national program, she said.”

Check out the latest Toyota recall news and information, including how the company's recent troubles affect our rankings. If you're in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars as well as this month's best car deals.