Under U.S. federal law, all auto manufacturers must notify the NHTSA within five business days of determining that a safety defect exists or that the vehicle is non-compliant with U.S. auto safety standards and to promptly conduct a recall.

"Safety is our highest priority," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "With today's announcement, I expect Toyota to rigorously reinforce its commitment to adhering to United States safety regulations."

Toyota, in a separate statement, said it would make the payment "without admitting to any violation of its obligations under the U.S. Safety Act."

"We agreed to this settlement in order to avoid a time-consuming dispute and to focus fully on our shared commitment with NHTSA to keep drivers safe," said Ray Tanguay, chief quality officer of Toyota North America.

The last time the Japanese automaker faced U.S. civil penalties was in 2010, when it agreed to pay $48.8 million as a result of three separate investigations of its handling of vehicle recalls.

Toyota paid maximum civil penalties for violations stemming from pedal entrapment, sticky accelerator pedals and steering relay rod recalls, the NHTSA said.

Shares in Toyota were up 2.8 percent at $88.99 in midday trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012