WASHINGTON – Toyota will pay $180 million to settle federal civil charges of repeatedly failing for at least a decade to report emissions-related defects in its vehicles, in what the Environmental Protection Agency called a “serious violation” of Clean Air Act rules designed to protect public health and the environment from harmful air pollutants.
The settlement, revealed today in a federal court filing by the Justice Department, is the largest-ever civil penalty for violation of EPA’s emission-reporting requirements.
From about 2005 to 2015, “Toyota failed to report mandatory information about potential defects in their cars to the EPA, keeping the agency in the dark and evading oversight,” said Susan Bodine, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
In admitting the violations, Toyota said its failure “resulted in a negligible emissions impact, if any.” But Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, where the complaint was filed, said: “Toyota’s actions undermined EPA’s self-disclosure system and likely led to delayed or avoided emission-related recalls, resulting in financial benefit to Toyota and excess emissions of air pollutants.”
“Toyota’s current tagline needs a rewrite reflecting the company’s real ethos,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “‘Lies Go Places’ is much better fit than ‘Let’s Go Places.’” He said the case further tarnishes Toyota’s history of refusing to take responsibility for its contribution to the climate crisis.
“During one of the most critical periods when action was needed by the auto industry to lower tailpipe pollution to address the climate crisis, Toyota was actively engaged in efforts to avoid reducing its own emissions,” Cook said. “This irresponsible deception might help explain why Toyota – which decades ago built its brand on fuel efficiency – supported the Trump administration’s scheme to roll back the ambitious emissions standards of the Obama administration.”
Soon after President Trump took office, auto industry lobbyists pushed for the repeal of the Obama-era federal fuel economy standards. And in 2019, Toyota, GM and Fiat Chrysler joined Trump’s legal efforts to overturn California’s state standards, which largely follow the Obama-era rules. In his climate action plan, President-elect Joe Biden promises to reinstate and strengthen tougher fuel economy standards.
“The future of the auto market is clearly electric vehicles,” Cook said. “But until we get there, car buyers who want clean air will look to manufacturers who can be trusted to do the right thing on fuel efficiency. Toyota has not earned their trust.”
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.