Japan's NGK pleads guilty, to pay $52.1 million U.S. fine for price fixing

UPDATED: 8/19/14 8:06 pm ET - adds links

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- NGK Spark Plug Co. agreed to plead guilty and pay a $52.1 million criminal fine over its role in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for spark plugs and other automotive parts, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

The department accused NGK, which is based in Nagoya, Japan, of conspiring with other auto parts makers from January 2010 to around July 2011 to manipulate prices for spark plugs, standard oxygen sensors and air fuel ratio sensors sold to automakers such as DaimlerChrysler AG, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. in the United States and elsewhere.

A one-count felony charge was filed against NGK with the U.S. District Court in Detroit. The plea requires court approval.

NGK, which has U.S. offices in Wixom, Mich., and operations in Irvine, Calif., and Charleston, W.Va., did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In connection with the plea, NGK agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department's long-running probe into alleged price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry.

Twenty-eight companies and 26 executives have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the probe, and agreed to pay $2.4 billion of criminal fines, the Justice Department said.