Posted Feb 03, 2010 04:55 pm CST
Updated: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a House Appropriations panel this morning that his department is considering a civil penalty against Toyota for its handling of the recall.
LaHood said his advice to anyone who owns a recalled Toyota is to “stop driving it, take it to a Toyota dealer because they believe they have a fix for it,” the New York Times reports.
Toyota didn’t institute the recall, LaHood said, until department officials flew to Japan “to remind Toyota about its legal obligations.”
LaHood later said that his advice to stop driving Toyotas was “obviously a misstatement,” the Associated Press reports. Instead, he said, Toyota owners should take recalled vehicles to dealerships for repairs.
The automaker currently faces 11 class action lawsuits over alleged sudden acceleration, a problem Toyota has attributed to floor mats and sticking gas pedals. Toyota has denied that the cars’ electronic systems played a role in the problems.
Updated at 12:10 p.m. CST to include LaHood’s retraction of the earlier advice to stop driving Toyotas.