Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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Toyota will pay $29 million to North Carolina and 29 other states to resolve allegations that the car maker concealed safety issues related to unintended acceleration, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Thursday.
"People expect their cars to get them where they need to go safely, and car makers have a responsibility to be upfront with drivers about safety issues and recalls," Cooper said in the announcement. "This settlement helps ensure that consumers will get better safety information about their cars faster in the future."
Toyota Motor Corporation and its North American entities agreed to pay $29 million to settle consumer protection claims, including $809,766.68 to North Carolina. Toyota will provide additional restitution and incentives to vehicle owners to encourage them to comply with safety recalls related to the acceleration problem.
Under the settlement, Toyota will be restricted from advertising its cars' safety unless it has sound engineering data to back those claims, the Attorney General said.
The settlement is the result of a multistate investigation that began in 2009 after consumers in North Carolina and other states reported that their Toyotas accelerated suddenly and unexpectedly.
Cooper and the other state attorneys general allege that Toyota engaged in unfair and deceptive practices by failing to disclose known safety defects with accelerator pedals in a timely manner.
The investigation found poor communication between Toyota's nerve center in Japan and its operations in the United States, which contributed to Toyota's failure to report known safety issues quickly, the official release states.
To better respond to safety concerns in the U.S., Toyota also agreed to make certain changes in its corporate chain of command. Toyota has agreed that officials and officers of its American operations will get timely access to information and the authority to fully participate in all decisions affecting the safe operation of Toyota vehicles advertised and sold in the U.S.
Consumers with questions about safety or recall issues with their vehicle can contact Toyota at 1-800-331-4331 or Lexus at 1-800-255-3987.
Under the settlement, Toyota also is:
Prohibited from reselling a vehicle it reacquired with alleged safety defects without informing the purchaser about the alleged defect(s) and certifying that the vehicle has been fixed,
Prohibited from misrepresenting the purpose of an inspection or repair when directing consumers to bring their vehicles to a dealer for inspection or repair
Required to exclude from the "Toyota Certified Used Vehicles" or "Lexus Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles" categories any vehicle acquired through lemon law proceedings or voluntarily repurchased by Toyota to ensure customer satisfaction.
Besides North Carolina, the following states and US territory participated in today's settlement: Alabama, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.