Japanese carmaker Toyota is facing a fine of more than $16 million for failing to promptly notify US authorities about safety defects in its cars.
US regulators say they have evidence Toyota knew of problems with sticky accelerator pedals four months before they began the biggest ever vehicle recall.
The US transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, says Toyota knowingly hid the dangerous defect and did nothing to protect American drivers and their families.
Mr LaHood is calling for the maximum $US16.4 million ($17.7 million) fine against Toyota.
“We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations,” Mr LaHood said.
“Worse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from US officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families. For those reasons, we are seeking the maximum penalty possible under current laws.”
It is the largest civil fine against an automaker ever sought by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The sudden acceleration of Toyota vehicles has allegedly been tied to 51 road deaths in the US.
Toyota has two weeks to agree to pay the fine, or contest it. If the two parties cannot agree a settlement they could go to court.