More from the Los Angeles Times:
The automaker is reportedly close to paying a $1-billion fine to settle a four-year federal criminal investigation into whether it properly reported safety complaints to regulators. Meanwhile, Toyota’s lawyers are in settlement talks over hundreds of civil lawsuits alleging wrongful deaths or injuries, potentially adding hundreds of millions to the tab.
Previously, Toyota agreed to pay $1.6 billion to settle a class-action case brought by thousands of Toyota owners who contended that sudden-acceleration problems damaged the value of their vehicles.
The automaker has repeatedly denied any serious safety defect that caused its cars to take off at high speeds, causing wrecks that killed or injured occupants. Toyota appeared ready for a protracted legal battle to fight hundreds of legal claims to the contrary.
Now, Toyota appears ready to pay what it takes to move the story off front pages and newscasts.
The potential for a $1-billion settlement of the criminal investigation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper reported that an agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office in New York could come within weeks. But the deal is not done and could change, according to the Journal.
Toyota confirmed the talks, issuing a statement that it “continues to cooperate with the U.S. attorney’s office in this matter. In the nearly four years since this inquiry began, we have made fundamental changes to become a more responsive and customer-focused organization, and we are committed to continued improvements.”
Moreover, Toyota has the money to spend.
Earlier this month, the Japanese car company said it was on track to earn a record profit of 1.9 trillion yen, or about $18.8 billion, for the fiscal year ending March 31. That’s more than the combined annual earnings of General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group.