The US Department of Justice announced on March 19 (local time) that it agreed with Toyota to close the four year-long sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) investigation by imposing a fine of US$1.2 billion on the Japanese automaker.
It is the highest amount of penalty imposed by the US government in the auto industry. Attorney General Eric Holder said that Toyota admitted to having provided false information to consumers, the US Congress and the regulatory authorities in 2009 and 2010 as to the SUA problems of Toyota and Lexus cars.
Paying the fine, Toyota will have its indictment suspended and not be subject to criminal punishment for three years to come. The Department of Justice is going to look into the manufacturing and marketing policy, practices and procedures of the carmaker by means of an independent monitoring agency. Toyota has recalled more than 12 million cars since 2009 due to the SUA, at a cost of US$2.4 billion, and paid US$1.6 billion to the consumers who filed suits. Anthony Foxx, US Secretary of Transportation, explained that the penalty is what is added to the US$66 million imposed recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“The agreement was not an easy decision to make,” said Toyota Motor North American Chief Legal Officer (CLO) Christopher Reynolds, adding, “We will go back to the basics to put consumers first again, win their trust back, and bear the responsibility.”