Toyota ready to pay $1 Billion to end U.S. criminal probe over car defects

Posted by News Express | 8 February 2014 | 3,530 times

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Federal prosecutors and Toyota Motor are close to a settlement on the government’s probe into sudden-acceleration claims and driver complaints that could total more than $1 billion, according to several published reports late Friday.

Citing unnamed sources familiar with the negotiations, The Wall Street Journal and the Detroit News late Friday said the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York and the automaker are nearing a deal that would resolve the Justice Department’s four-year criminal investigation into whether Toyota misled federal regulators over safety defects in the accelerator pedals of some vehicles.

“Toyota continues to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this matter. In the nearly four years since this inquiry began, we’ve made fundamental changes to become a more responsive, customer-focused organization, and we’re committed to continued improvements,” company spokesman Ed Lewis said in a statement, according to the Detroit News story.

Though a settlement is not yet certain, a deal could be announced in the next few weeks, the reports said, that would allow Toyota not to plead guilty to concealing its knowledge of the defects. The deal likely would include a deferred prosecution agreement that would put the automaker on probation for a number of years.

In February, Toyota agreed to pay $29 million to settle charges by 29 state attorneys general that it had prior knowledge of the safety defects. The settlement prevents the automaker from advertising the safety of vehicles without sound engineering and scientific data to back such claims, the settlement agreement says.

In December 2012, Toyota also reached the largest-ever auto civil settlement in history, totaling more $1 billion.

Toyota also paid close to $70 million in fines after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it had failed to recall millions of vehicles in a timely fashion.

In 2009-2010, the automaker recalled more than 14 million vehicles worldwide for pedal safety defect issues that first began surfacing in 2000. Prior to the recalls, there were more than 3,000 complaints and several dozen fatalities that were allegedly caused by the acceleration problems. NHTSA has confirmed a link in 5 of the deaths.

•Text courtesy USA TODAY. Photo shows Toyota Motors President/CEO Akio Toyoda.

Source: News Express

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