time for knowingly delaying the massive recall.
The first fine, based on the fact that Toyota recalled the 2.3 million vehicles for faulty accelerator pedals four months after the found there are such faults in its vehicles, is the largest yet given to a manufacturer.
The fine is based on the fact that the US has "proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations" and that the carmaker "knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families."
According to US law, a $6,000 penalty for each defective vehicle sold by Toyota is possible, amounting to $13.8 billion. A law that limits individual fines against a manufacturer however makes for the maximum the government could seek reach $16.375 million.
Toyota has until April 19 to respond in writing, with NHTSA saying the carmaker will be taken to court and forced to pay should it raise objections.
"If Toyota will not agree to pay the demanded penalty, NHTSA will refer this matter to the U.S. Department of Justice with the recommendation that the Attorney General commence a civil action in federal court," the NHTSA says in a letter.
Should Toyota pay the fine without challenging it however, it implicitly admits to all the accusations. Accusations which, although obviously based on fact, were never admitted to by the carmaker.