Making Toyota Pay

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After enduring a public flogging on Capitol Hill, Toyota execs will now have to contend with regulators’ attempts to slap a civil penalty on the beleaguered automaker. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that NHTSA, whose purportedly lax oversight made it the target of withering criticism during Congressional hearings into Toyota’s customer-safety crisis, will seek a civil judgment of $16.375 million against Toyota. LaHood’s statement charges the company failed notify the agency of its sticky-pedal conundrum for more than four months. After poring over more than 70,000 pages of documents supplied by the Japanese car maker, “We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations,” LaHood said in a statement released this afternoon. “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.” The sum NHTSA is seeking represents the maximum allowable penalty.

Here’s the DOT press release.