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Published: Wednesday, 5/19/2010

Toyota pays $16.4M fine for slowness in pedal case


WASHINGTON - Toyota Motor Corp. paid a record $16.4 million fine yesterday for a slow response in its accelerator pedal recall.

A Transportation Department official said the Japanese automaker paid the fine after reaching an agreement with the government April 19. Toyota had 30 days to pay it. The official was not authorized to speak publicly before an announcement was made.

Toyota faced the maximum penalty allowed under law after it was accused of hiding earlier defects involving gas pedals. Toyota rejected the accusation even though it agreed to pay the fine.

The world's largest car manufacturer has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for safety defects that affect some of its best-selling models. The company still faces hundreds of state and federal lawsuits in the United States.

The Transportation Department is reviewing thousands of Toyota documents and could issue penalties over the company's handling of other safety recalls. Toyota confirmed paying the fine but declined further comment.

Yesterday a fake bomb addressed to Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana in Princeton, Ind., prompted the evacuation of a post office in the southern Indiana town. It was the fourth suspicious package since Friday sent to Toyota's U.S. headquarters and production plants in three states, a company spokesman said. After the post office was cleared, a bomb technician determined the package was harmless, authorities said.

It bore a handwritten originating address in Nigeria, just like the other three packages, said Gibson County Chief Deputy Sheriff George Ballard.

The package was a cardboard tube about 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, and it contained electronic parts, Mr. Ballard said. He said he was unaware of any note inside the package.

It was similar to packages mailed to Toyota's offices in Erlanger, Ky., Friday and plants in West Virginia and Texas on Monday, a company spokesman said. Toyota said it does not know the motive for the hoaxes. The FBI and other authorities are investigating.

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