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The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday that Toyota will pay a $1.2 billion settlement after a criminal investigation into the car maker over a sudden-acceleration defect that caused the deaths and injuries.
This is the largest criminal settlement for a car maker in history, reports USA Today. The government will dismiss the case if Toyota continues to be cooperative. An independent monitor will be called in to see how Toyota deals with safety communications from now on.
“Today we can say for certain that Toyota intentionally concealed information and misled the public about the safety issues behind these recalls," Attorney General Eric Holder said today. “Put simply, Toyota's conduct was shameful.”
According to The New York Times, the issue stemmed from unintended acceleration in models, sparked by sticky accelerator pedals and floor mats that could make them get stuck. The company has had to recall 9.4 million vehicles.
An FBI investigation found that Toyota was not entirely forthcoming on how widespread the issue was. Sources for the Times said that internal reports did show that it was a growing problem.
The company has already paid $1.6 billion in lawsuits from car owners and federal fins in 2010 ($16.375 million) and 2012 ($17.35 million) for not reporting the defect right away to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Entering this agreement, while difficult, is a major step toward putting this unfortunate chapter behind us,” Christopher P. Reynolds, chief legal officer, Toyota Motor North America, said. “We remain extremely grateful to our customers who have continued to stand by Toyota. Moving forward, they can be confident that we continue to take our responsibilities to them seriously.”
The settlement comes while GM is in the midst of a similar problem with cars that would shut down without warning. “Other car companies should not repeat Toyota’s mistake,” Holder said today.