U.S. regulators hit Toyota with a $16.4 million fine this week for concealing from safety officials what it knew about the so-called "sudden accelerator" problem that led to a recall of 2.3 million cars in the United States, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.
The e-mail sent by Irv Miller, at the time Toyota's U.S. vice president of environmental and public affairs, said the company should "come clean." The e-mail, written five days before the recall was announced, said Toyota was "not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet."
"The time to hide on this one is over," the e-mail said.
It was written in response to a correspondence between two other Toyota public relations staff members, one of whom said it was premature to discuss the issue because "we have not clarified the real cause."
Under U.S. law, automakers are allowed five days after discovering a defect to inform regulators of the problem, the newspaper said.