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Steve Chiotakis: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says federal safety officials had to point out to Toyota the seriousness of its gas pedal issue. That included a visit to the automaker’s offices in Japan. Marketplace’s John Dimsdale now on how government regulators are considering ways to get tougher on car safety.
John Dimsdale: Ten years ago, Congress granted the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission the authority to require car and tire makers to disclose customer safety complaints. That gave government regulators an early warning of potential problems.
But the commission’s former administrator, Joan Claybrook, says the agency dropped the ball:
Joan Claybrook: In recent years, it has let auto companies call the shots.
Toyota received its first complaint about a sticky accelerator pedal in 2007. The commission is considering penalizing Toyota for its slow reaction, but Claybrook says it won’t be enough.
Claybrook: Unfortunately, the maximum penalty is $15 million. And I’ve already been talking to people on Capitol Hill about having a significant increase, maybe to a hundred million dollars.
Claybrook expects the commission to more aggressively police auto safety in the wake of the Toyota case. The White House is requesting a 15 percent increase in staffing for the nation’s auto safety enforcer.
In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.
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