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Seperately, Toyota said Tuesday it aims to boost global sales 3 percent to 7.7 million vehicles next year with global demand offsetting an expected drop in purchases in Japan.

The latest fines involve two separate safety problems affecting certain Toyota passenger cars and trucks.

The first case deals with recalls in 2009 and 2010 of about 5 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles with gas pedals that could become entrapped in floor mats. Toyota had recalled 55,000 all-weather floor mats in 2007 to address pedal entrapment, but the government said its investigation found that simply removing the floor mats was insufficient.

A high-speed crash involving a Lexus in August 2009 killed four people near San Diego, prompting the government to investigate the recall. After reviewing crash evidence and other data, NHTSA investigators concluded that Toyota failed to notify the government about a known safety defect within five days.

In the second case, Toyota conducted a recall in 2004 of Hilux trucks in Japan with steering relay rods that could break and affect steering. Toyota told U.S. regulators in 2004 that the safety problem was limited to vehicles in Japan and the company had not received similar complaints in the U.S.

But a year later, Toyota told NHTSA the steering defect was also found in several U.S. models and recalled nearly 1 million vehicles. NHTSA said in May 2010 it learned about complaints from U.S. consumers that Toyota failed to disclose to the government when it conducted the recall in Japan in 2004.

Toyota turned over thousands of documents to the government as part of the investigation. The two most recent fines are also the maximum allowed under law, and are adjusted for inflation.

“Safety is our top priority and we take our responsibility to protect consumers seriously,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “I am pleased that Toyota agreed to pay the maximum possible penalty and I expect Toyota to work cooperatively in the future to ensure consumers’ safety.”

The Japanese automaker faces dozens of lawsuits from families of people killed or injured in crashes linked to unintended acceleration. The government’s safety agency has received about 3,000 reports of sudden acceleration incidents involving Toyota vehicles during the past decade, including 93 deaths. NHTSA, however, has confirmed only the four deaths from the California crash.

Toyota says their recalls have directly addressed the safety problems with their vehicles and the company is making progress in responding to concerns. The company has established engineering teams to examine cars that are the subject of consumer complaints and appointed a chief quality officer for North America, giving its U.S. offices a larger role in safety related decisions.

Toyota has found no link to electronic problems, an issue raised by safety groups as a potential cause of the vehicle problems. A separate investigation by the Transportation Department and NASA has not uncovered any electronic problems, but the probe is expected to continue into 2011.

The National Academy of Sciences is reviewing potential causes of unintended acceleration in vehicles across the entire auto industry and expects to issue its findings in the fall of 2011.

Before Toyota’s recall crisis, the largest automaker fine was $1 million paid by General Motors in 2004 for a slow response to a recall of nearly 600,000 vehicles with faulty windshield wipers.


Thomas reported from Washington. AP Writer Shino Yuasa contributed to this report.