TOYOTA has agreed to pay more than $US1 billion to settle a class action lawsuit related to issues of unintended acceleration in its vehicles.
The proposed settlement, filed in US District Court in California, would be one of the largest of its type in automotive history. If the agreement is approved, Toyota would make cash payments for the loss of value on vehicles affected by multiple recalls and install special safety features on up to 3.2 million cars.
While there are still personal-injury and wrongful death lawsuits pending against Toyota, the class action was the largest legal action related to losses by vehicle owners.
The suit was filed in 2010 after many complaints to federal regulators that Toyota vehicles were accelerating without warning, causing accidents and injuries. Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles in the US for problems related to floor mats that could become entangled with accelerator pedals, or pedals that could stick.
But the class action claimed Toyota's electronics systems were at fault. After a long investigation, government officials concluded last year that there was no evidence that faulty electronics systems contributed to the acceleration issues. But a subsequent review of that inquiry by a branch of the National Academy of Sciences found that federal regulators had lacked the expertise to monitor electronic controls in automobiles.
The company has been fined more than $US60 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failing to inform regulators of internal information about the sudden acceleration, which the company has largely attributed to driver error.
The recalls mushroomed into broader problems for Toyota, which had long enjoyed a pristine reputation for quality, safety and reliability. The class action suit was a lingering obstacle to its steady comeback from the acceleration issues, which included testimony by its chief executive, Akio Toyoda, before Congress.
Toyota has recovered much of the sales lost in the aftermath of the sudden-acceleration problems in 2010 and its supply-chain troubles caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami last year.