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Toyota agrees to pay $16.4 million fine

Toyota Motor Corporation, the family-controlled automaker, announced yesterday it would pay the $16.4 million fine imposed on the company by the US Department of Transport. 

Toyota said it had taken the decision "in order to avoid a protracted dispute and possible litigation, as well as to allow us to move forward fully-focused on the steps to strengthen our quality assurance operations."

On 6 April the Department of Transport announced it planned to fine Toyota for failing to notify US regulators of a safety fault that Toyota had allegedly been aware of for four months. (Click here to read our coverage of the story) The "sticky-pedal" and "slow to return pedal" defects at the centre of this dispute have been the cause of over 8 million recalls by the Japanese carmaker since November.

Despite agreeing to pay the fine, "Toyota denies NHTSA's allegation that it violated the safety act or its implementing regulations," said yesterday's statement. "We have acknowledged that we could have done a better job of sharing relevant information within our global operations and outside the company, but we did not try to hide a defect to avoid dealing with a safety problem."

US transport secretary Ray LaHood said: "By failing to report known safety problems as it is required to do under the law, Toyota put consumers at risk. I am pleased that Toyota has accepted responsibility for violating its legal obligations to report any defects promptly. We are continuing to investigate whether the company has lived up to all its disclosure obligations."

Third-generation family chairman Akio Toyoda (pictured) has been criticised for his response to the recalls, as he remained largely silent on the matter until February.

However, he has since attempted to rectify the company's negative publicity, appearing in public often and personally heading a Toyota committee that is investigating the safety recalls.

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