In an expanding global antitrust investigation, nine Japanese automotive suppliers, along with two former executives, have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and pay more than $740 million in criminal fines for fixing the price of auto parts sold in the United States and abroad, the Justice Department said Thursday.
The pleas were the latest in what the Justice Department said was its largest criminal antitrust investigation, one that has involved the authorities from Asia to North America to Europe and has now resulted in $1.6 billion in fines since 2011.
More than a dozen separate conspiracies involving more than 30 kinds of parts affected sales to Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, as well as the American subsidiaries of Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.
“These international price-fixing conspiracies affected more than $5 billion in automobile parts sold to U.S. car manufacturers,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement. “In total, more than 25 million cars purchased by American consumers were affected by the illegal conduct.”
Hitachi Automotive Systems and Mitsubishi Electric paid the biggest fines, $195 million and $190 million. The Justice Department said the two companies’ price-fixing schemes lasted from at least January 2000 through February 2010.
The parts included seat belts, radiators, windshield wipers and air-conditioning systems, Mr. Holder said. The Justice Department said that while the price fixing increased the cost of cars for consumers, there was no way to determine exactly how much.