Japanese car parts firms fined by US regulators

Engine and man Parts used to make engines, like this one for a Ford Taurus, were kept high due to price fixing

Nine Japan-based companies and two executives agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to fix the price of car parts sold to US car manufacturers.

They will pay a combined $740m (£462m) in criminal fines to US authorities.

According to the US Department of Justice, the firms sought to fix the prices of more than 30 different products.

More than $5bn worth of parts were then sold to US manufacturers like Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors.

Some of the price fixing lasted for more than a decade, and more than 25 million cars purchased by US consumers were affected by the price fixing.

It was not just US car manufacturers that were affected. The US subsidiaries of Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Subaru were all also subject to higher prices for parts.

The companies admitting criminal wrongdoing are: Hitachi Automotive Systems, Jtekt Co., Mitsuba Co., Mitsubishi Electric Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, NSK, T.RAd, Valeo Japan Co., and Yamashita Rubber Co.

The two executives are Tetsuya Kunida, a Japanese citizen, and Gary Walker, a US citizen. Both will pay $20,000 fines.

According to court papers, the participants in the scheme met in remote locations in the US and Japan. They used code names when discussing ways to assure prices for certain car parts like seatbelts and windshield wipers were kept high.

"The Department of Justice will continue to crack down on cartel behaviour that causes American consumers and businesses to pay higher prices for the products and services they rely upon in their everyday lives," said Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement.

The fines come as part of a larger investigation by the Department of Justice into price fixing in the car industry.

So far, 20 companies and 21 executives have been charged - 17 executives have served prison sentences, and more than $1.6bn in fines has been collected.

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