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Auto Industry

Toyota to settle with US Justice Department over car safety problems

Japanese carmaker Toyota is reportedly close to finalizing a settlement with US authorities aimed at avoiding criminal charges over massive safety problems. Several US media reported the deal would be expensive.

Toyota Motor Company and the US Justice Department had reached a settlement worth $1 billion (720 million euros) over the Japanese company's handling of consumer complaints about the safety of its cars, US television news channel CNN reported Wednesday.

In a similar report on Wednesday, the US business daily Wall Street Journal also said a settlement to this amount was discussed, but according to unnamed sources was still likely to fall apart.

A spokeswoman for Toyota told CNN that the Japanese carmaker had cooperated with the US Attorney's Office in this matter for four years.

"During that time, we have made fundamental changes to become a more responsive and customer-focused organization, and we are committed to continued improvements," the spokeswoman said. Both CNN and Wall Street Journal said the US Justice Department was not available for comment.

In 2009, Toyota started a series of massive recalls involving more than 10 million cars, mostly in the United States. The problems involved faulty brakes, gas pedals and floor mats that had led to unintended acceleration of its cars.

US authorities find Toyota defects not caused by faulty electronics

The US Attorney's Office has been investigating allegations Toyota had misled US authorities after the complaints. Between 2010 and 2012, the company already paid $66 million in fines for delays in reporting its safety problems.

Just recently, the Justice Department has started a probe into whether US automaker General Motors was slow in recalling cars with a defect linked to 13 deaths.

uhe/mz (AP, Reuters)

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