US charges Japanese auto parts executive with price fixing

DETROIT – A federal grand jury has charged a Japanese executive with conspiring to fix prices on auto parts.

According to an indictment filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, Hitoshi Hirano fixed prices of heater control panels sold to Toyota Motor Corp. between 2003 and 2010. The panels were used for vehicles made in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The indictment also alleges that Hirano tried to destroy documents containing criminal evidence.

At the time, Hitoshi Hirano was an executive managing director at Tokai Rika, an auto parts supplier based in Nagoya, Japan. Tokai Rika pleaded guilty to price-fixing in 2012 and paid a $17.7 million fine.

Hirano is one of 34 people charged in the U.S. government’s ongoing investigation into price-fixing in the auto parts industry.