The US government has slapped Toyota with a record $17.4 million fine for failing once again to quickly report problems to federal regulators and for delaying a safety recall. The fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is the maximum allowed by law. It's the fourth fine levied against Toyota in the past two years for similar infractions, and it's the largest single fine ever assessed against a car company over safety defects. In 2010, Toyota paid a total of $48.8 million in fines for three violations.
The latest fine stems from a June recall of SUVs from Toyota's Lexus luxury brand. About 154,000 of the 2010 Lexus Rx 350s and RX 450h models were recalled because the driver's-side floor mats can trap the gas pedal and cause the vehicles to speed up without warning. The problem was similar to troubles from 2010 that prompted a series of embarrassing safety recalls by the company. The fine is a tiny fraction of Toyota's earnings. The company, which this year regained its position as the world's biggest automaker, posted a $3.2 billion profit in the third quarter alone. (Read more Toyota stories.)