Middle Tennessee Man Talks About Toyota Fine
by Chris Cannon
DOVER, Tenn. - The largest fine ever levied against an automaker by the U.S. government was issued after they said Toyota intentionally covered up safety issues for years. A Stewart County man said he was a victim of that cover-up.
Former policeman Frank Visconi wrecked his Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck in 2007. He said his truck's sudden, and unintended acceleration, caused the wreck.
It happened on Interstate 24 West, just past Briley Parkway, in Nashville.
"As soon as I touched the brakes, the rear wheels took off and made the vehicle hydroplane," said Visconi.
He was not hurt during the wreck, but his truck suffered extensive damage. He said it was the fifth instance when his Toyota violently went out of control, but it was the only time he wrecked the truck.
After that wreck Visconi started talking about what happened and his story started getting national attention.
"People start calling me from everywhere, and that was it, it was in the legal hands then," Visconi said.
Six-and-a-half years a later, Toyota settled a class action lawsuit Visconi was part of, and the company never admitted anything was wrong with Visconi's 2007 Toyota Tacoma.
The government announced a $1.2 billion settlement Wednesday with Toyota that Attorney General Eric Holder said was the largest financial penalty of its kind ever imposed on an auto company.
It also filed a criminal charge alleging the automaker defrauded consumers by issuing misleading statements about safety issues in Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Under a deferred prosecution agreement, an independent monitor will review policies, practices and procedures at the company.
The action concludes a four-year criminal investigation into the Japanese automaker's disclosure of safety problems, which focused on whether Toyota was forthright in reporting problems related to unintended acceleration.
Toyota has blamed drivers, stuck accelerators or floor mats that trapped the gas pedal for the acceleration claims that led to massive recalls of Camrys and other vehicles. The company has repeatedly denied its vehicles are flawed.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration never found defects in electronics or software in Toyota cars, which had been targeted as a possible cause.
Visconi applauded the government's penalty against the automaker.
"Well deserved and probably not enough. Personally, my opinion is, they probably shouldn't even allow them to produce cars in the United States," Visconi said.
(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report)