Toyota to pay $1.2B to settle criminal probe

WASHINGTON – Toyota agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle an investigation by the U.S. government, admitting that it hid information about defects that caused Toyota and Lexus vehicles to accelerate unexpectedly and resulted in injuries and deaths.

Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the penalty is the largest of its kind ever imposed on an auto company. The four-year criminal investigation focused on whether Toyota promptly reported the problems related to unintended acceleration.

The company admitted to misleading consumers and regulators by assuring them that it had adequately addressed an acceleration problem stemming from ill-fitting floor mats- which attracted widespread publicity in 2009 following a car crash in San Diego that killed a family of four – through a limited safety recall of certain models.