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US, Toyota Reach $1.2 Billion Settlement over Unintended Acceleration Issue

WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In the largest criminal penalty ever imposed on a car company, Toyota has agreed to pay more than $1.2 billion to settle charges that it misled consumers and government regulators about safety issues with its vehicles that caused a series of accidents blamed on unintended acceleration.

As part of the settlement, the Japanese automaker has admitted to making misleading claims about the safety of its Toyota and Lexus vehicles in 2009 and 2010, despite knowledge of problems including faulty brakes, gas pedals and floor mats.

“Even while giving unequivocal assurances that it had fully addressed a grave safety problem, Toyota knew full well that the problem of unwanted acceleration persisted,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

“It's an unprecedented case,” Bharara said. “It's a ground-breaking case.”

In a statement to ABC News on Tuesday night ahead of the settlement announcement, a Toyota spokesperson said the company “has cooperated with the U.S. Attorney's office in this matter for more than 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.”

Christopher Reynolds, the chief legal officer for Toyota Motor North America, said Wednesday, “Entering this agreement, while difficult, is a major step toward putting this unfortunate chapter behind us. We remain extremely grateful to our customers who have continued to stand by Toyota.”

Toyota has already paid more than $1 billion to resolve civil claims related to unintended acceleration.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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