On Thursday, Toyota reached a settlement with the US government over a decade of noncompliance with Clean Air Act reporting regulations. Under the law, defects or recalls that affect vehicle emissions equipment have to be reported to the Environmental Protection Agency.
But, says EPA assistant administrator Susan Bodine, “[f]or a decade Toyota failed to report mandatory information about potential defects in their cars to the EPA, keeping the agency in the dark and evading oversight. EPA considers this failure to be a serious violation of the Clean Air Act.”
Manufacturers are supposed submit emissions defect information reports if they know of an emissions defect that affects at least 25 or more vehicles (or engines) of a particular model in a given model year. They also have to submit voluntary emissions recall reports when beginning a recall to fix an emissions problem, as well as quarterly reports on the progress of the recall.
However, the Department of Justice says that for 10 years beginning in 2005, Toyota delayed filing somewhere in the region of 78 emissions defect information reports—affecting millions of vehicles over this time—dumping many of them in the EPA’s lap in 2015. Additionally, there were 20 recall reports (and 200 quarterly reports) that were never filed.
The DOJ says that Toyota in Japan chose to follow a weaker emissions defect reporting requirement set by California’s Air Resources Board and would only file defect reports with the EPA when also complying with CARB.
Toyota has settled with the government, admitting and accepting responsibility for this lost decade of reporting. As a result, it will pay a civil penalty of $180 million, the largest such fine ever issued for violating this requirement of the Clean Air Act.