Japan auto parts firm Tokai Rika to pay US price fixing fine

* Company is ninth to plead in ongoing DOJ probe

* Tokai Rika also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice

* European Commission conducting parallel investigation

WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Japanese auto parts maker Tokai Rika Co Ltd has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to fix the prices of auto heating components and to pay a fine of $17.7 million, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

The settlement is the latest in a wide-ranging investigation into price fixing for a variety of car parts that has so far ensnared nine companies.

Tokai Rika, whose customers include many major automotive companies, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to raise the prices of heater control panels, which control the temperature inside the car, the department said.

It also pleaded guilty to an obstruction of justice charge because a company executive ordered documents destroyed once the company became aware of the probe.

Officials from Tokai Rika were not immediately available for comment.

The Justice Department's Antitrust Division has also settled with Autoliv, TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, Nippon Seiki Col Ltd, Fujikura Ltd, Furukawa Electric Co Ltd , Denso Corp, Yazaki Corp and G.S. Electech.

The European Commission has a parallel investigation.

So far, eleven people from various companies have also agreed to plead guilty in connection with price-fixing of auto parts.

US v Tokai Rika., U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Case No. 12-20711.