Toyota Motor North America has settled its outstanding cases with Attorneys General in 29 states and one U.S. territory regarding allegations of foot-dragging in its safety recall process from 2005 to 2010.
As part of the settlement, in which Toyota admits no liability or wrongdoing, Toyota will pay $29 million to be divided among the states and American Samoa.
This effectively closes the case as it pertains to states; no others have claims remaining against Toyota regarding recall actions, but private parties can still sue the company.
In December, Toyota set aside $1.1 billion to cover recall-related suits by individuals and government entities. The $29 million settlement will be paid from those funds, Toyota said.
The State Attorneys General had targeted Toyota for an alleged lack of transparency in its recall process regarding tens of millions of vehicles over the five-year period, including the period when incidents of alleged unintended acceleration were reported in connection with Toyota vehicles.
Since the suits were filed, Toyota has taken several steps, such as making owners’ manuals available online and allowing customers to enter their vehicle identification numbers into an online database to check for recalls and safety bulletins. Toyota also will continue its use of “rapid response” service teams to monitor product quality issues in the field.
The settlement, filed in Superior Court in Mercer County in New Jersey, also bars Toyota from using terms related to “safety” in advertising unless backed by scientific study. It also scolds Toyota for misrepresenting the reasons why customers should take their vehicles in to a dealership for service or inspection.
“This is an important settlement, not only because of the dollars, but because the terms are designed to help make Toyota more accountable, responsive and vigilant regarding vehicle safety issues,” New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said in a statement.
“The corporate changes to which Toyota has committed should go a long way toward averting similar problems in the future, and the requirement that safety-related advertising claims be supported by sound engineering data will provide an added layer of consumer protection,” the statement said.
Chris Reynolds, Toyota’s chief legal officer, said in a statement:
“Resolving this inquiry is another step we are taking to turn the page on legacy issues from Toyota’s past recalls in a way that benefits our customers.
“Immediately after this inquiry was launched in 2010, Toyota began cooperating fully with the Attorneys General and implementing ‘customer-first’ initiatives to address their concerns and those of our customers,” Reynolds added. “Today, we are pleased to have reached a cooperative agreement that reflects the commitment of Toyota’s 37,000 North American team members to put customers first in everything we do.”