At the time, Toyota controlled 17.8 percent of the U.S. market. Gas prices were high, playing to Toyota's fuel-efficient small cars and hybrids. Detroit automakers were in serious financial trouble and had few fuel-efficient cars for sale.
By last month, though, Toyota's share fell to 13.3 percent, according to Autodata Corp., as the company faced intense competition in small and midsize cars from resurgent Detroit automakers and Korean brands Hyundai and Kia.
The Toyota criminal charge and settlement could foreshadow what's in store for General Motors. The same U.S. attorney's office is investigating the Detroit auto giant for its slow response to a faulty ignition switch problem in older compact cars that has been linked to at least 31 crashes and 12 deaths. NHTSA also is investigating whether GM withheld information about the problem and could fine the automaker $35 million.