Under the agreement, federal wire fraud charges and charges to scheme and conceal information will be dropped after three years if GM cooperates fully.
The company must also admit that it failed to disclose the safety defect to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration and to misleading consumers.
The Department of Justice said GM designed the ignition switch in some of its vehicles with such low torque that it could slip out of the run position, cutting power to the engine and airbags.
At least 124 deaths have been linked to the defect.
Federal prosecutors said it would have cost less than a dollar per car to fix the problem.
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