Toyota to pay $1.2B in criminal probe of safety issues, U.S. says

A Toyota Camry, seen after a crash off

A Toyota Camry, seen after a crash off Interstate 80 in Wendover, Utah, on Nov. 5, 2010. Starting in 2009, Toyota issued massive recalls, mostly in the U.S., totaling more than 10 million vehicles for various problems including faulty brakes, gas pedals and floor mats. (Credit: AP)

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Toyota Motor Corp. will pay $1.2 billion to resolve a criminal probe into its handling of consumer complaints over safety issues, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday.

Toyota admitted it misled American consumers by concealing and making deceptive statements about two safety issues, each of which caused a type of unintended acceleration, the Justice Department said.

The settlement resolves a four-year investigation by U.S. authorities.

Toyota faces hundreds of lawsuits over acceleration problems that gained public attention after the deaths of a California highway patrolman and his family, which were reportedly caused by the unintended acceleration of his Toyota-made Lexus.

The faulty acceleration prompted Toyota to recall millions of vehicles, beginning in 2009.

Last year, Toyota received approval on a settlement valued at $1.6 billion to resolve claims from Toyota owners that the value of their cars dropped after the problems came to light. It is also negotiating with hundreds of customers who said they had been injured.

"Toyota has cooperated with the U.S. attorney's office in this matter for more than four years," Toyota spokeswoman Carly Schaffner said on Wednesday. "During that time, we have made fundamental changes to become a more responsive and customer-focused organization, and we are committed to continued improvements."

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