Leaked email proves Toyota knew of faulty pedals
Contributed by Debbie Howlett
(Friday, June 11, 2010) |
An email that recently leaked from Toyota proves that the company knew of its faulty acceleration pedals long before they began addressing the issue. The company has already paid a $16.4 million fine to the United States Transportation Department for the issue, but the total value of lawsuits against the company will surpass that by a wide margin, according to the New York Times.
The email shows that the company warned its European dealerships of the potential issues with accelerator pedals long before it told dealerships in the U.S. Furthermore, the email, which is from an unnamed executive, shows that some within the company urged others to report the issues to prevent future problems.
"I hate to break this to you, but we have a tendency for mechanical failure in accelerator pedals of a certain manufacturer on certain models. The time to hide on this one is over. We need to come clean," the email reads.
Toyota's use of email archiving stored the data until its recent leak, some believe the email will force various regulatory authorities to take further action against the company. Under U.S. law, the government can fine Toyota up to $6,000 per car affected by the faulty pedals, which would push the fine to nearly $14 billion should the government refuse a settlement. The $16.4 million it paid prior to the discovery of the email was the largest fine ever handed to an automobile manufacturer in the U.S.
Since word spread of the defect, the company has recalled nine million cars worldwide - six million of which were in the U.S.
BusinessWeek recently reported that 40 lawsuits against the company will be coordinated in a Los Angeles court. It is expected that more will come as there are more than 300 cases currently pending against Toyota in California alone. The cases include a class-action suit filed by the Orange County District Attorney.
BusinessWeek reports that California courts have become especially aggressive in their focus on Toyota after a state highway patrolman was killed in a crashed caused directly by the defect. The resentment forced Ronald George, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, to assemble a panel charged with seeking a judge in the state that will be able to preside over the case without bias. A hearing is set for the cases to be heard in the state court on June 25.