(MENAFN - AFP) Toyota has agreed to pay about 1.1 billion to settle a class action lawsuit launched by US vehicle owners affected by a series of mass recalls, the Japanese automaker said Wednesday.
The deal will cover the cost of installing a free brake override system in millions of vehicles affected by the recalls and cash payments to those who sold their vehicles or decline the brake override.
Once lauded for its safety standards, Toyota has been forced into damage control mode in recent years after recalling millions of vehicles over defects.
Earlier this year it added two models to a controversial 2009 recall launched after floor mats became trapped under the accelerator, which was linked to accidents that allegedly caused dozens of deaths.
Toyota's mishandling of the initial problem and other reports of sudden, unintended acceleration led to the recall of more than 12 million vehicles worldwide, a US congressional probe, more than 50 million in fines from US regulators and public apologies by its chief.
Toyota has since worked hard to regain its reputation for safety, while at the same time fighting off the impact of the economic crisis, a strong yen and the devastating 2011 quake-tsunami disaster.
The settlement helps Toyota avoid a lengthy and risky court battle with angry owners who argued that Toyota's technology -- not the trapped floormats -- were behind the deadly instances of sudden, unintended acceleration.
"This was a difficult decision -- especially since reliable scientific evidence and multiple independent evaluations have confirmed the safety of Toyota's electronic throttle control systems," Christopher Reynolds, Toyota Motor North America's chief legal officer, said in a statement.
"However, we concluded that turning the page on this legacy legal issue through the positive steps we are taking is in the best interests of the company, our employees, our dealers and, most of all, our customers."