US transportation body says Toyota knew about the problem months before it issued a recall.

Federal regulators in the US have levied a 16.4 million dollar fine against the Japanese automaker Toyota for failing to disclose information related to faulty gas pedals.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that Toyota knew about the problem in US market cars as early as September of 2009 but did not issue a recall until four months later in January of this year.

"We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations," said Ray LaHood, the US Transportation Secretary.

Toyota has been given notice by the NHTSA and has until April 19 to respond or the transportation body will go to court to enforce the fine.

According to NHTSA, Toyota issued repair procedures on September 29 to dealers in Canada and 31 other European countries regarding sticking accelerator pedals but no such procedures were issued in the US even though Toyota knew of existing problems in that market too.

Toyota has recalled 2.3 million cars related to sticking accelerator pedals. Another 5.4 million vehicles were also recalled due to gas pedal entrapment issues such as with the floor mats.

The fine, altough the largest in US auto industry history, won't hurt Toyota at all even if it must be paid. Last year the company's revenues were $209 billion (€155 million). But it will inevitably hurt their once impeccable brand image in terms of quality.

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