That was the headline in a New York Times editorial, referring to the auto maker’s repeated failure to report known safety defects to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Here are excerpts:
The latest omission to be brought to light — and not by the automaker — regards problems with steering wheel relay rods, which transmit changes in direction from the steering gearbox to the wheels. In 2004, Toyota issued a recall of 330,000 vehicles in Japan after complaints about cracking rods. It told American regulators that, because of different driving conditions, the problem did not affect Toyota cars in the United States. It said it had not received a single complaint in this country.
In 2005, Toyota notified the N.H.T.S.A. and issued a voluntary recall of nearly one million vehicles here because the steering rod could break. This year, lawyers for an Idaho family whose son died when his Toyota truck rolled over unearthed about 40 complaints about steering rod problems in the United States before the date of the Japanese recall.
That information prompted the N.H.T.S.A. to investigate whether Toyota neglected to inform it about the problem. Last month a federal grand jury asked for information about the steering wheel problems.
Toyota has a lot to explain about why it delayed informing American regulators about the faulty rods — and why it told the N.H.T.S.A. it had received no complaints in the United States. The agency, meanwhile, has drafted outside experts to help investigate all possible causes of the sticky accelerator problem. What is clear right now is that Toyota, like all automakers, must abide by the legal disclosure rules. If a $16.4 million fine is not enough to change Toyota’s behavior, then Congress should give regulators a bigger stick to work with.