By Tom Krisher
Toyota will pay $180 million to settle U.S. government allegations that it failed to report and fix pollution control defects in its vehicles for a decade.
The company also agreed in court to investigate future emissions-related defects quickly and report them to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a timely manner.
“Toyota's actions undermined the EPA's self-disclosure system and likely led to delayed or avoided emissions-related recalls,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. Attorney in Manhattan said Thursday in a prepared statement.
The Japanese automaker's actions from 2005 to 2015 brought financial benefits and excessive vehicle pollution, the statement said.
The company was accused in a government lawsuit of delays in filing 78 emissions defect reports as required by the Clean Air Act. The reports covered millions of vehicles, and some of them were as many as eight years late, the statement said.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday and settled on the same day, according to the statement.
In a statement, Toyota said it reported the problems to the EPA five years ago after finding a “process gap" that brought delays in filing the defect reports. “Within months of discovering this issue, we submitted all relevant delayed filings and put new robust reporting and compliance practices in place,” the company said.
The company said the reporting delays resulted in a “negligible” impact on emissions, contradicting the government's statement alleging excessive pollution. The company said that despite reporting delays, it notified customers and fixed vehicles that needed to have emissions recalls.
Automakers have to report to the EPA if there are 25 cases of the same pollution control defect in a model year. But Toyota decided to report the defects only when required under a less-stringent California standard, the Justice Department said.
Toyota is the third automaker in recent years to pay penalties for Clean Air Act violations. The worst was cheating by Volkswagen, which for years programmed its diesel vehicles to turn pollution controls on for EPA lab tests and turned them off for roadway driving. In 2019, Fiat Chrysler agreed to a settlement over allegations that it rigged pollution tests on diesel pickup trucks and SUVs. Fiat Chrysler has maintained that it didn’t deliberately cheat emissions tests and the company didn’t admit wrongdoing.