Toyota Motor will pay a massive $180 million fine to settle a U.S. Justice Department complaint that the carmaker violated reporting requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act for roughly a decade.
The DOJ complaint against Toyota alleged that from 2005 to 2015, several entities within Toyota violated the Clean Air Act’s requirements for reporting emissions-related defects in automobiles. These standards are in place to protect public health and the environment from harmful air pollutants.
“For a decade, Toyota systematically violated regulations that provide EPA with a critical compliance tool to ensure that vehicles on the road comply with federal emissions standards. Toyota shut its eyes to the noncompliance, failing to provide proper training, attention, and oversight to its Clean Air Act reporting obligations,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in a statement.
The DOJ announced that the company delayed the filing of an estimated 78 emissions defect information reports related to millions of vehicles. The DOJ also said that Toyota did not file 20 voluntary emissions recall reports and over 200 quarterly reports that are supposed to be filed to update the EPA on recalls.
Rather than file the required Emissions Defect Information Report unilaterally, the company decided to file the reports principally when Toyota was required to file distinct reports with California regulators under a less strict standard. The EPA rejected the California standard as too lenient when Toyota had previously proposed to rely on it for federal reporting.
According to the complaint, Toyota’s managers and staff in Japan knew about the failures to report but failed to stop the practice.
The $180 million fine that Toyota will pay is the largest civil penalty ever levied for a breach of federal emissions-reporting requirements.
“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. Today, Toyota pays the price for its misconduct with a $180 million civil penalty and agreement to injunctive relief to ensure that its violations will not be repeated,” said Strauss.
Eric Booth, a spokesman for the automaker, claimed that the company alerted the proper authorities as soon as the lapses in reporting came to light.
Booth claimed that the delay in reporting “resulted in a negligible emissions impact, if any. Nonetheless, we recognize that some of our reporting protocols fell short of our own high standards, and we are pleased to have resolved this matter.”
In addition to the fine that Toyota will pay, injunctive provisions require Toyota to follow compliance and reporting practices designed to ensure timely investigation of emission-related defects and timely reporting to EPA. The requirements include training, communication, and oversight.
The consent decree remains subject to a period of public comment and court approval. Following approval of the consent decree, Toyota will have admitted, acknowledged, and accepted the responsibility for its wrongdoings.