Remember that whole Toyota unintended acceleration fiasco from awhile back? Us too. Now the company is paying out a settlement.
The US Justice department announced today that Toyota will be required to pay $1.2 billion dollars to end the criminal probe. The unintended acceleration cases began way back in 2009. The initial theories included poorly designed floor mats that got trapped near the accelerator pedal and actual faulty design of the mechanisms for the pedals themselves.
The case that seemed to gain the most notoriety was in 2009 when an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer and his family were killed in their Lexus ES when it essentially became a runaway car near San Diego.
“Today we can say for certain that Toyota intentionally concealed information and misled the public about the safety issues behind these recalls,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in announcing the settlement. He went on to call Toyota’s conduct “shameful.”
Toyota’s chief legal officer, Christopher P. Reynolds, said, “Entering this agreement, while difficult, is a major step toward putting this unfortunate chapter behind us. We remain extremely grateful to our customers who have continued to stand by Toyota. Moving forward, they can be confident that we continue to take our responsibilities to them seriously.”
Moving forward. They just HAD to throw the slogan in there, didn’t they?
All kidding aside, the terms of the settlement effectively request that the government dismiss the case resulting from the criminal probe against Toyota in exchange for the payment. There will also be an independent monitor assigned to Toyota watch how they handle safety complaints in the future. This criminal probe is different from the lawsuits, federal safety regulator probes, and congressional probes into the unintended acceleration cases. The fate of those remains uncertain.
Toyota has already paid upwards of $1.6 billion USD to people in lawsuits related to the events and over $30 million in legal fees and fines, including a federal fine to the NHTSA for delays in reporting safety defects in their vehicles. The new $1.2 billion fine represents the largest fine in US history for an automaker.
Reynolds closed by saying the following:
“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.”
We’ll see. Now the question is… what will come of GM’s new fiasco? Time will tell – but the message is clear: the government is getting serious about safety, and automakers are going to have to pay.