The U.S. has reached a $1.2 billion settlement with Toyota Motor Corp., concluding a four-year criminal investigation into the Japanese automaker’s disclosure of safety problems, according to a person near to the investigation.
Attorney General Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and U.S. Attorney to the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, were announcing the settlement Wednesday morning, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the settlement around the record ahead of the announcement.
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In the statement early Wednesday, Toyota said it has cooperated together with the U.S. Attorney’s office in this matter for more than four years and had made fundamental changes to be a more responsive and customer-focused organization, so we are devoted to continued improvements.
The criminal investigation focused entirely on whether Toyota was forthright in reporting problems associated with unintended acceleration troubles.
Starting in 2009, Toyota issued massive recalls, mostly in the Usa, totaling more than 10 million vehicles for various problems including faulty brakes, gas floor and pedals mats. From 2010 through 2012, Toyota Motor Corp. paid fines totaling greater than $66 million for delays in reporting unintended acceleration problems.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration never found defects in electronics or software in Toyota cars, which had been targeted being a possible cause.
The settlement continues a string of bad publicity for Toyota, which just before the unintended acceleration cases had a bulletproof picture of reliability. Since the cases surfaced, the company’s brand image has become damaged and possesses lost Usa market share as competition has intensified.
Last year, Toyota agreed to pay more than $1 billion to resolve a huge selection of lawsuits claiming that those who own its cars suffered economic losses due to the recalls. But that settlement failed to include wrongful death and injury lawsuits which were consolidated in California state and federal courts.
In December, Toyota filed court papers after having a four-year legal battle saying that it’s in settlement talks on nearly 400 United states lawsuits, but other cases aren’t contained in the talks.
The negotiations come less than 2 months after an Oklahoma jury awarded $3 million in damages to the injured driver of the 2005 Camry and to the family unit of a passenger who was killed.
The ruling was significant because Toyota had won all previous unintended acceleration cases that went to trial. It was even the first case where attorneys for plaintiffs argued that this car’s electronics – in this case the software attached to a midsize Camry’s electronic throttle-control system – were the cause of the unintended acceleration.
At the time, legal experts said the Oklahoma verdict might cause Toyota to think about a broad settlement of the remaining cases. Until then, Toyota have been riding momentum from several trials where juries found it was not liable.
Toyota has blamed drivers, stuck accelerators or floor mats that trapped the gas pedal for the acceleration claims that led to the large recalls of Camrys as well as other vehicles. The business has repeatedly denied its vehicles are flawed.
No recalls are already issued associated with problems with onboard electronics. Inside the Oklahoma case, Toyota attorneys theorized that the driver mistakenly pumped the gas pedal instead of the brake when her Camry ran through an intersection and slammed into an embankment.
But after the verdict, jurors told AP they believed the testimony of an expert who said he found flaws in the car’s electronics.
Toyota also needed to pay millions for recalls, as well as a number of fines totaling $68 million on the NHTSA, the U.S. government’s road safety watchdog, for being slow to report acceleration problems.
Still, the payments won’t hurt Toyota’s finances very much. In its last fiscal quarter alone, Toyota posted a $5.2 billion profit, crediting a weak yen and powerful global sales.