Toyota has reached a $1.2 billion settlement with the U.S. government that ends a four-year criminal investigation into the automaker’s response to safety issues, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday.
Under the agreement, the company will admit that it misled U.S. consumers by making deceptive statements about two safety issues affecting its vehicles. As a result, Toyota will pay a $1.2 billion financial penalty under a “deferred prosecution agreement.”
Holder called Toyota’s conduct in the matter “shameful,” and said that the automaker showed “a blatant disregard for systems and laws designed to look after the safety of consumers. By the company’s own admission, it protected its brand ahead of its own customers. This constitutes a clear and reprehensible abuse of the public trust.”
The settlement represents the largest penalty of its kind imposed on an automotive company by the U.S.
Holder added that “other car makers should not make Toyota’s mistake,” while U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara underlined this point, saying that Toyota’s public admissions should be a warning to other automakers.
In a statement early Wednesday, Toyota said it has “cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s office in this matter for more than four years” and had “made fundamental changes to become a more responsive and customer-focused organization, and we are committed to continued improvements.”
The criminal investigation focused on whether Toyota was forthright in reporting problems related to unintended acceleration troubles.