A Justice Department inquiry found that GM’s failure to disclose a faulty ignition problem in their cars constituted criminal wrongdoing, the New York Times reported Friday. The penalty has yet to be determined, but it’s expected to be the largest ever faced by an automaker for criminal wrongdoing, surpassing the $1.2 billion penalty levied against Toyota in 2014.

2.6 million Chevy Cobalts were recalled last year as a result of faulty ignitions that turned off the car’s engine and disabled power steering, brakes, and airbags. One recall led to another, and ultimately Chevrolet recalled 30 million total vehicles.

This massive recall was part of GM’s ongoing plan to play nice with investigators and possibly earn themselves a smaller penalty. Their massive recall was in stark contrast to the previous year’s Toyota scandal, which saw the automaker keep millions of potentially unsafe cars on the road despite evidence in favor of a recall. GM hopes that its cooperation will result in some leniency from prosecutors (and, you know, keep people from dying in fiery car crashes).

More details about the extent of the punishment (including whether or not prosecutors will force a guilty plea) will emerge in the coming weeks. Until then, GM will also face multiple consumer fraud investigations, as well as wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits.

(via the New York Times)


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