The California-based financial unit of Toyota Motor Corp. has agreed to pay up to $21.9 million in compensation over alleged discrimination against some ethnic groups taking out auto loans through car dealerships, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday.

In July, the department leveled a similar allegation against Honda Motor Co. in the U.S. The case resulted in a $24 million compensation deal.

Toyota Motor Credit Corp. said it "respectfully disagrees" with the department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over the determination that industry lending practices were discriminatory but is committed to ensuring that consumers can count on fair auto loans.

According to the department, Toyota Motor Credit charged thousands of African-Americans, Asians and Pacific islanders higher interest rates than non-Hispanic whites.

The company charged such borrowers higher interest "because of their race or national origin and not because of the borrowers' creditworthiness or other objective criteria related to borrower risk," the department said.

The auto loans to be covered by the compensation will be those taken out between January 2011 and last month, the department said.

The Toyota unit forced African-Americans to pay over $200 more on average while the average Asian and Pacific islander borrower paid over $100 more, according to the department.

Toyota Motor Credit is under Toyota Financial Services Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp.