Toyota Paying $1.2 Billion Penalty

The auto giant admits to misleading customers.
3:00 | 03/19/14

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Transcript for Toyota Paying $1.2 Billion Penalty
We move on, now, to the dramatic conclusion in a story we first broke here at ABC. The harrowing descriptions from families trapped inside runaway cars. Well, tonight, the maker of those cars, Toyota, has agreed to pay a massive $1.2 billion. And ABC's chief business correspondent, Rebecca Jarvis, now has the details. Reporter: It was a series of horrific accidents that put fear in the hearts of drivers. Our accelerator's stuck. We're in trouble. We can't -- there's no breaks. Reporter: Sudden, unintended acceleration in some Toyota and Lexus vehicles was killing people on the highways. We're approaching an intersection. Hold on. Pray. Reporter: Four people died in that 2009 crash. And a wave of reports about runaway Toyotas sparked a federal investigation. In today's $1.2 billion settlement with the justice department, Toyota admitted that it misled U.S. Consumers by concealing and making deceptive statements about unintended acceleration. Toyota confronted a public safety emergency as if it were simply a public relations problem. Reporter: The justice department says Toyota had first blamed driver error, then admitted floor mats could trap the gas pedal in some models. But in January 2010, ABC's Brian Ross aired the story of a runaway Toyota in New Jersey that could not be blamed on either the driver or floor mats. It just took off on you? It just took off. It seemed like the more I hit the brake, the harder it wanted to accelerate. Reporter: It turned out some Toyotas also had a problem with sticky gas pedals. The record-breaking Toyota settlement could provide a roadmap into a similar investigation of general motors and its faulty ignition switches. Today, the attorney general made that clear, saying, other car companies should not repeat Toyota's mistake. Meanwhile, in a statement, Toyota says, in the more than four years since these recalls, we have gone back to basics at Toyota, to put customers first. Rebecca Jarvis, ABC news, Washington.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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