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Toyota Agrees to Record $1.2 Billion Fine



From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

Toyota Motor Corporation agreed to a record fine of $1.2 billion on March 19th. The record fine brought to a close a United States criminal investigation into safety problems with some Toyota vehicles. Toyota is the world's largest carmaker.

The head of the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder, said the company misled the public about two safety issues. The problems caused some vehicles to gain speed uncontrollably. The settlement ends a four-year investigation into how much information Toyota withheld from safety officials.

The problems involved poorly made floor coverings and gas pedals that could become stuck in position. The affected vehicles could speed up unexpectedly as a result. The company recalled about 10 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles. But, it did not describe the full extent of the problems and blamed drivers. Attorney General Holder said Toyota agreed to have an independent group look at how the company deals with safety issues.

Mr. Holder said the fine was the largest criminal penalty against a car company in U.S. history. He said the amount was right because of Toyota's actions in the case. Toyota owners have brought hundreds of private legal cases against the company in connection with the acceleration issue. Toyota released a statement saying it has made major changes to its operations to become a more "responsive" company. US investigators are also looking at carmaker General Motors. GM has recalled more than 1.5 million vehicles for problems with starter devices.