Attorney General reaches agreement with Toyota over safety issues


PROVIDENCE — In a press release, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin Thursday, Feb. 14, joined 29 other states in announcing a $29 million settlement with Toyota Motor Corporation and its related North America entities over allegations that Toyota concealed safety issues related to unintended acceleration.

Toyota agreed to pay $29 million to settle consumer protection claims and has agreed to provide additional restitution and incentives to vehicle owners to promote compliance with unintended acceleration safety recalls. As a result of the settlement, Rhode Island will receive approximately $510,000 and Toyota will be restricted from advertising the safety of vehicles without sound engineering data to back such safety claims.

“Companies that continue to put profits ahead of consumer safety will be held accountable,” Mr. Kilmartin said. “Consumers are faced with many choices when purchasing a vehicle, and safety features are one of the most important aspects to consider. This settlement puts auto manufacturers on notice: customers need to be able to trust that the safety information provided by car manufacturers is accurate and truthful.”

In a complaint filed today along with the settlement agreement, the states alleged Toyota engaged in unfair and deceptive practices when it failed to timely disclose known safety defects with accelerator pedals. The investigating State Attorneys General determined that poor communication between Toyota’s nerve center in Japan and Toyota’s United States holdings were partially responsible for Toyota’s failure to timely report known safety issues.

During the settlement negotiations, emphasis was placed on ensuring changes in the corporate culture and corporate chain of command to enhance Toyota’s responsiveness to regulatory agencies in the United States. As a result, Toyota has agreed to significantly change the safety culture within the company’s United States operations.

Toyota will ensure that officials and officers of its United States operations have timely access to information and the authority to fully participate in all decisions affecting the safe operation of Toyota vehicles that are advertised and sold in the United States.  The requested culture and chain of command changes will also improve safety issues related to communications between Toyota’s holdings in the United States and Toyota’s other global holdings.

The State Attorneys General believe that the agreed changes in Toyota’s corporate communications and safety decision-making chain of command will allow the company to move forward in a positive manner with improved responsiveness to safety concerns.

In addition, the settlement provides that Toyota is:

·         Prohibited from reselling any vehicle it has reacquired with alleged safety defects without informing the purchaser about the alleged defect(s) and certifying that the reacquired vehicle has been fixed;

·         Prohibited from misrepresenting the purpose of an inspection or repair when directing consumers to bring their vehicles to a dealer for inspection or repair; and

·         Required to exclude from the “Toyota Certified Used Vehicles” or “Lexus Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles” categories any vehicle acquired through lemon law proceedings or voluntarily repurchased by Toyota to ensure customer satisfaction.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office led the investigation along with the Attorneys General from Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington. The following states and US territory participated in today’s settlement:  Alabama, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Consumers affected by the settlement can contact Toyota and Lexus at the following phone numbers:

Toyota – 1-800-331-4331

Lexus – 1-800-255-3987

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.