The Billion Dollar Fine

Toyota has been fined a billion dollars by the federal government for company actions related to sudden unintended acceleration:

The unintended acceleration issue generated hundreds of lawsuits and prompted Toyota to recall millions of automobiles beginning in 2009.The automaker was first subpoenaed by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office in 2010.

The settlement comes after a four-year investigation that revealed how the company sought to keep details from regulators, officials said.

“Idiots! Someone will go to jail if lies are repeatedly told. I can’t support this,” one Toyota employee said after a meeting, according to a statement of facts released Wednesday.

The deal announced on Wednesday deferred criminal prosecution of Toyota for three years if the company fully complies with all aspects of the agreement, Holder said.

That’s billion with a “B”. I’ve speculated here from time to time that the problem was caused by electronics and/or a software problem with an onboard computer. I continue to suspect that’s the case.

Some are wondering if GM may be next:

The agreement comes as General Motors is also under investigation over its handling of an ignition switch failure linked to a dozen deaths. GM recalled more than 1.6 million vehicles more than a decade after first noticing the issue. Top officials said the Toyota settlement could serve as a template for similar cases.

“My hope and expectation is that this resolution will serve a model for how to approach future cases involving similarly situated companies,” Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference on Wednesday, though he declined to discuss GM specifically.

The companies may forestall criminal prosecution by complying with the federal government but that won’t do much to slow the number of civil cases and these two auto companies are not alone. There have been incidents of SUA reported in Jeeps, VWs, Kias, and Fords.

4 comments… add one
  • TastyBits

    Other than the car mats, I have never seen any cause. Have I missed it?

  • PD Shaw

    @Tastybits, I’m not sure we know the cause or that a cause is relevant to the fine here. I think they are in trouble for not informing regulators of consumer complaints about “unintended acceleration,” or reports from pre-production trials that identify software problems that could cause “unintended acceleration” (even though Toyota claimed they weren’t relevant to the model actually produced).

    I’ve not found a copy of the settlement agreement yet, but if there is no agreement to the cause of “unintended acceleration” in it, I suspect we’ve arrived at the point where we will never know.

  • TastyBits

    @PD Shaw

    I was actually concerned that I might have missed something about the problem, but if the problem has not been solved, how is a fine going to help future victims.

  • Franklin

    At a wedding this past weekend, I was informed by GM employees that the faulty GM part isn’t a GM part at all. It’s from a supplier and used by at least one other manufacturer. Presuming this information is true (I only met these two guys at the wedding so cannot vouch for their reliability), the media hasn’t picked up on that fact.

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