Toyota will pay $29 million in settlements to 29 states and one U.S. territory resulting from claims that the automaker concealed information about its unintended acceleration recalls in 2009 and 2010. New Jersey led the investigation, which began in 2010. The automaker will pay $5 million or more to reimburse owners for towing, taxi and rental-car costs as long as claims are filed with state or federal agencies within one year. The settlement also prohibits Toyota from advertising the safety of its vehicles without "sound engineering and scientific data to back such claims," the Detroit News reports.
"Toyota has committed to take steps to make vehicle information more easily accessible to consumers to help them operate their vehicles safely and make more informed choices," the automaker said Thursday in a statement. "Toyota also agreed to continue other customer-focused initiatives, including its rapid-response service teams, its expanded network of product quality field offices across the U.S. and a range of customer-care amenities for owners of vehicles subject to certain recalls."
The settlement marks the latest in a string of penalties for the world's largest automaker, whose unintended acceleration recalls involved around 12 million cars in 2009 and 2010.In 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration assessed $48.8 million in civil penalties against Toyota for failing to recall vehicles in a timely manner. The same year, Toyota settled a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit because of unintended acceleration. Toyota expanded the recall in June 2012 to include the RX SUV from its Lexus luxury division, and in December NHTSA levied a $17.35 million fine for the delay. That same month, Toyota settled a $1.1 billion class-action lawsuit on behalf of owners who claimed undue depreciation because of the recalls. Then in January, the automaker settled the first of hundreds more wrongful injury or death lawsuits related to unintended acceleration that the U.S. District Court consolidated.
In 2012, Toyota led all U.S. automakers with 5.33 million recalls, but the vast majority were unrelated to unintended acceleration.