Toyota, accused by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of not disclosing automobile
safety defects, has been fined a record $1.2 billion, the largest ever
for a car manufacturer in the United States. Toyota is accused of concealing
safety defects from American consumers, conduct described by United States Attorney General,
Eric Holder, as "shameful," and a "blatant disregard"
for the law. The DOJ recently conducted a four year investigation of Toyota
and discovered evidence that the company intentionally concealed information
about automobile safety defects from consumers and government officials.
The DOJ contends that the undisclosed automobile safety defects that unnecessarily
put lives at risk consisted of faulty parts that caused sudden, unintended
acceleration in several Toyota models. They also contend that Toyota hid
problems related to floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals and made
misleading statements to consumers in an effort to maintain its brand
image. While government officials have not yet given an exact number of
deaths associated with these defects, the company still faces, and is
currently defending, many
wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits.
Other Car Manufacturers Put On Notice Regarding Automobile Safety Defects Problem
DOJ officials vow that the Toyota case sets the standard for how these
cases will be treated in the future. The DOJ's newly viligant approach
to the problem of manufacturers concealing automobile safety defects is
causing some degree of anxiety in the automobile industry. Holder warned
car manufacturers in unequivocal terms that future concealment of automobile
safety defects will not be tolerated. Holder said, "Other car companies
should not repeat Toyota's mistake. A recall may damage a company's
reputation, but deceiving your customers makes that damage far more lasting."
This resolution comes as the DOJ is beginning to investigate General Motors
for possibly concealing automobile safety defects. General Motors is accused
of failing to fix its Chevrolet Cobalt and other models equipped with
defective ignition switches that can shut off engines and disable air
bags. General Motors recently announced a recall of 1.6 million cars and
has vowed to cooperate with all relevant regulatory agencies.