Nine Japan-based car parts suppliers and two executives have agreed to plead guilty on charges of price-fixing in the US car industry.
The US Department of Justice has issued fines for the offences totalling US$740 million (AU$791 million).
An extraordinary web dating back over a decade has been unravelled, with company representatives using fake names and code words while meeting in remote US and Japanese locations to discuss price-fixing, according to US court papers.
Future tenders for parts such as seatbelts and windscreen wipers were then rigged, to ensure prices were kept high.
Beyond the ‘big three’, carmakers such as Mazda, Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Subaru and Nissan were also affected by price-fixing, with more than 25 million cars sold in the US believed to contain the overly expensive parts.
"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," a statement from Attorney General Eric Holder said.
Hitachi Automotive Systems copped the biggest fine, totalling US$195 million (AU$208 million). The other companies who will plead guilty to the charges are T.RAd, Jtekt Co., Mitsuba Co., Valeo Japan Co., Yamashita Rubber Co., Mitsubishi Electric Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and NSK.
Company executives Tetsuya Kunida from Japan and Gary Walker from the US have both been issued with US$20,000 (AU$21,375) fines and each will serve jail time of 12 and 14 months respectively.
It’s not over yet for the US Department of Justice, with this latest round of fines part of a larger ongoing investigation.
To date, 21 executives and 20 companies have been charged, with 17 executives serving jail sentences and more than US$1.6 billion (AU$1.71 billion) in fines issued.