Toyota Motor is expected to pay a fine of $ 180 million for longstanding violations of the Clean Air Act, the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan said Thursday. This is the largest civil penalty ever imposed for violating federal emissions reporting requirements.
From around 2005 to 2015, the global automaker systematically did not report any defects that interfered with the control of tailpipe emissions from its cars and violated standards designed to protect public health and the environment from harmful air pollutants, according to a complaint filed in Manhattan.
Toyota managers and employees in Japan knew about the practice but couldn’t stop it, and the automaker most likely sold millions of vehicles with the defects, the law firm said.
“Toyota has closed its eyes to non-compliance,” Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney, said in a statement. Toyota has agreed not to contest the fine.
Eric Booth, a spokesman for the automaker, said the company alerted authorities as soon as the bugs became known and that the delay in reporting “resulted in negligible, if any, impact on emissions.”
“However, we recognize that some of our reporting protocols do not meet our own high standards and we are pleased to have resolved this issue,” added Booth.
Toyota is the world’s second largest automaker after Volkswagen and has made a name for itself in clean technology based on its best-selling Prius gasoline-electric hybrid passenger cars. However, the auto giant’s decision in 2019 to support the Trump administration’s withdrawal of exhaust emission standards – along with the relatively slow adoption of all-electric vehicles – has made it a target of criticism from environmental groups.
Toyota’s newer lineup has been rich in gas guzzling sport utility vehicles that have come at far higher prices and have produced far higher profit margins. Toyota vehicles delivered some of the worst fuel efficiencies in the industry, leading to an overall deterioration in mileage and pollution from passenger cars and trucks in the United States for the first time in five years, according to a recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Many automakers are now preparing for a likely push by the new Biden administration to return to stricter exhaust regulations on exhaust pipes and have signaled that they will commit to working with government officials.
“It’s appalling that car companies are cheating on pollution regulations but then want President Biden to negotiate new standards for clean cars with them,” said Dan Becker, who leads the Campaign for Safe Climate Transportation at the Center for Biodiversity, an environmental group . “Why should someone trust automakers after failing to meet their previous commitments?”
The auto industry has been hit by emissions-related scandals in recent years. In 2017, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to plotting to commit fraud against the U.S. government after admitting that it had tampered with its diesel-powered cars during tests to meet air quality standards, even though the cars met those standards when driving regularly surpassed. Last year, Daimler, another German automaker, agreed to pay $ 2.2 billion to settle allegations that Mercedes-Benz cars and vans sold in the U.S. were programmed to perform emissions tests cheat.
Car owners themselves were also accused of tampering with their vehicles. A federal report earlier this year concluded that owners and operators of more than half a million diesel pickups in the past decade have illegally disabled emission control technology in their vehicles, causing excess emissions of 9 million additional trucks the road became possible.
Transport, which remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels, makes up the bulk of emissions from global warming, ahead of emissions from energy, manufacturing or agriculture. Scientists have long warned that the world’s cars and trucks must move away from gasoline to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Recent estimates have shown that traffic-related emissions in the United States decreased by nearly 15 percent in 2020 as millions of people stopped driving and airlines canceled flights. However, experts warn that car and truck emissions will rise again unless policymakers take stronger measures to keep emissions down.