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According to the LA Times, Toyota Motor Corp. has been fined $17.35 million for delaying the recall of Lexus RX350 and RX450h sport-utility vehicles (SUVs). Toyota settled on the $17.35 million in order to "avoid a time-consuming dispute" and to concentrate on Toyota’s commitment to keeping drivers safe.

The recall was for a safety hazard: The driver’s side floor mat in these vehicles could force the gas pedal to stick resulting in unintended acceleration, increasing the risk of a crash. The LA Times noted Toyota has previously received fines totaling $48.8 million due to the company’s handling of auto recalls for pedal entrapment, sticking gas pedals and steering mechanism problems. At first glance, it is amazing to us that a) when Toyota knew for certain about the bad floor mats, it didn’t have them redesigned immediately; and b) the $17.35 million fine could be far more costly than having the floor mats redesigned and replaced. And while to most people, $17.35 million isn’t chump change, to Toyota, one analyst suggested, "it’s just a speed bump."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) David Strickland weighed in, "Every moment of delay [in a recall] has the potential to lead to deaths or injuries on our nation’s highways." Experts say that while the current fine is a chip in Toyota’s image, it will not affect sales. Toyota presently has 14.4% of the U.S. automobile market, an increase of 2.7% over November of last year.

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