Toyota has paid a record $16.4 million fine to settle allegations by US regulators the company was too slow to recall vehicles with defective accelerator pedals. It was claimed that Toyota hid the issue from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for at least four months, while the law required safety defects to be reported withing five business days.

That sum, the maximum allowed under auto safety regulations, was paid to the US Treasury in lieu of the Japanese automaker admitting wrongdoing. Now, I’m not sure how American laws work, but the exchange sounds like quite a good deal. The civil penalty payment was paid two days before Toyota USA sales chief, Jim Lentz, is expected to appear before a congressional committee investigating Toyota recalls in this long saga.

There’s more to come for the world’s biggest automaker: US safety regulators are also investigating whether Toyota delayed a 2009 recall of all-weather floor mats that could jam the gas pedal. That investigation is expected to run through the summer and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood does not rule out the possibility of another fine.

Away from the courts, things look rosier for Toyota. Its US sales rose 24% in April as incentives buoyed demand for the Corolla and Prius. Company president Akio Toyoda was quoted as saying: “We are still in the middle of the storm, but I am feeling that we can see clear skies in the distance.”