Toyota is to pay a record $1.2 billion penalty to the US Justice Department over safety issues.
The payment – which is the equivalent of 862 million euros – means it will not face criminal charges.
Toyota also had to make an admission that it misled American consumers about two different problems that caused cars to accelerate even as drivers tried to slow them. At fault were floor-mats that slipped forward under the cars’ pedals and accelerators that became stuck.
“Entering this agreement, while difficult, is a major step toward putting this unfortunate chapter behind us,” Toyota’s North American legal chief Christopher Reynolds said in a statement.
It still faces hundreds of private lawsuits over the problems.
This could serve as a template for how US authorities deal with a similar investigation into General Motors. GM is also under investigation over its handling of an ignition switch failure linked to a dozen deaths.
‘Idiots! Someone will go to jail’
The settlement resolves a four-year investigation by US authorities, but the problems date back to at least 2007, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an inquiry into the Lexus ES350 model after reports of unintended acceleration by the vehicle, which is made by Toyota.
The problem prompted Toyota to recall millions of vehicles, beginning in 2009.
But Toyota’s statements about the recall misled the public because it didn’t recall all the cars susceptible to the problems, caused by faulty floor-mats, prosecutors said.
A Toyota engineer concluded that the top-selling Corolla was among the worst vehicles for potential floor-mat entrapment, but the model wasn’t included in the recall.
The company also concealed from the public and regulators another type of unintended acceleration caused by pedals getting stuck, officials said.
The company had cancelled a design change to address the issue in the wake of the San Diego accident, prosecutors said.
“Idiots! Someone will go to jail if lies are repeatedly told. I can’t support this,” one Toyota employee said after a meeting with regulators, according to a statement of facts filed with the settlement.
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