At the centre of the late-reporting debacle is the 2010 Lexus RX 350.

Toyota has been ordered to cough up $17.35-million (R150-million) for essentially dragging its heels when it came to reporting a safety defect to the U.S. government.

This is going down as the biggest civil penalty ever to be paid by a car company to the USA's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for violations related to a single recall.

This all relates to a floor mat pedal entrapment issue, causing unwanted acceleration in 2010 Lexus RX 350 models.

NHTSA said it contacted Toyota about the issue in May this year after it noticed a trend in vehicle owner questionnaires.

Toyota advised the NHTSA a month later that it was aware of 63 alleged incidents and said it would recall 154 036 Lexus RX 350s as well as 2010 RX 450h vehicles to address the defect.

Federal law stipulates that car companies must notify NHTSA within five business days of determining that a safety defect exists, and to conduct a recall.

Toyota was fined a total of $48.8 million (R422-million) in civil penalties in 2010 as a result of three separate investigations into its handling of vehicle recalls, the department said.

Source: Reuters