The fine handed to Toyota is the largest one given to an automaker. More than that, it makes public the fact that Toyota knew about its accelerator problems much sooner than it announced the recall.
"We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said according to Mercury News. "Worse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families."
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. The NHTSA also announced it sent the letter to Toyota on Monday.
The carmaker on the other hand replied it received no such letter.
"While we have not yet received their letter, we understand that NHTSA has taken a position on this recall. We have already taken a number of important steps to improve our communications with regulators and customers on safety-related matters as part of our strengthened overall commitment to quality assurance."
"These include the appointment of a new Chief Quality Officer for North America and a greater role for the region in making safety-related decisions."