Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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March 19, 2014

US files charge against Toyota, $1.2B penalty

(Continued)

In a statement, Toyota said that at the time of the recalls, "we took full responsibility for any concerns our actions may have caused customers, and we rededicated ourselves to earning their trust," said Christopher P. Reynolds, chief legal officer of Toyota Motor North America.

"In the more than four years since these recalls, we have gone back to basics at Toyota to put our customers first," he said.

Toyota said it had "made fundamental changes to become a more responsive and customer-focused organization, and we are committed to continued improvements."

Starting in 2009, Toyota issued massive recalls, mostly in the U.S., totaling more than 10 million vehicles for various problems including faulty brakes, gas pedals and floor mats. From 2010 through 2012, Toyota Motor Corp. paid fines totaling more than $66 million for delays in reporting unintended acceleration problems.

The settlement continues a string of bad publicity for Toyota, which before the unintended acceleration cases had a bulletproof image of reliability. Since the cases surfaced, the company's brand image has been damaged and it has lost U.S. market share as competition has intensified.

Last year, Toyota agreed to pay more than $1 billion to resolve hundreds of lawsuits claiming that owners of its cars suffered economic losses because of the recalls. But that settlement did not include wrongful death and injury lawsuits that have been consolidated in California state and federal courts.

In December, Toyota filed court papers after a four-year legal battle saying that it's in settlement talks on nearly 400 U.S. lawsuits, but other cases aren't included in the talks.

The negotiations come less than two months after an Oklahoma jury awarded $3 million in damages to the injured driver of a 2005 Camry and to the family of a passenger who was killed.

The ruling was significant because Toyota had won all previous unintended acceleration cases that went to trial. It was also the first case where attorneys for plaintiffs argued that the car's electronics — in this case the software connected to a midsize Camry's electronic throttle-control system — were the cause of the unintended acceleration.

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