Toyota To Pay Record $180 Million Fine For A Decade Of Clean Air Act Violations

Illustration for article titled Toyota To Pay Record $180 Million Fine For A Decade Of Clean Air Act Violations
Photo: Ramin Talaie / Stringer (Getty Images)

There is yet another auto emissions scandal bubbling up, and this time it’s on Toyota. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan announced Thursday that Toyota would pay a $180 million fine for violations of the Clean Air Act. This is the largest civil penalty ever for a violation of federal emissions-reporting requirements.


Toyota knowingly sold vehicles with defects while doing nothing about it, the complaint says. From about 2005 to 2015, Toyota failed to report defects that hindered how its cars controlled tailpipe emissions. This violated standards meant to protect the public and environment from pollution.

It gets worse from there. While Toyota knew about it, its employees failed to do anything about it. From the New York Times:

Toyota managers and staff in Japan knew about the practice but failed to stop it, and the automaker quite likely sold millions of vehicles with the defects, the attorney’s office said.

“Toyota shut its eyes to the noncompliance,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney, said in a statement. Toyota has agreed not to contest the fine.

Eric Booth, a spokesman for the automaker, said that the company had alerted the authorities as soon as the lapses came to light, and 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,” Mr. Booth added.

Toyota has enjoyed a reputation for green technology and leading the way toward a cleaner environment. However, the automaker has been slow to adapt to the times. The marque supported the Trump Administration’s rollback of fuel economy standards, and it has been late to offer battery-electric vehicles.

Toyota’s missteps don’t stop there. From the New York Times:

Toyota’s more recent lineup of models has been heavy on gas-guzzling sports-utility vehicles, which come with far bigger price tags and have brought far higher profit margins. According to a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency, Toyota vehicles delivered some of the worst fuel efficiency in the industry, leading to an overall worsening of mileage and pollution from passenger cars and trucks in the United States for the first time in five years.

Toyota is only one of many in the auto industry hit with emissions scandals. Most people will immediately remember Volkswagen’s Dieselgate as a prime example. But Volkswagen wasn’t alone, as Mercedes-Benz and BMW both faced fines for cheating emissions regulations.

According to the EPA, transportation remains the largest source of planet-warming emissions in the country. Of that chunk, 59 percent comes from light-duty vehicles. Transportation is followed closely by the electric-generating sector.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik and learning pilot. Smart Fortwo (x4), Honda Beat, Suzuki Every, AmTran Bus, VW Jetta TDI (x2), VW Touareg, Audi TT, Buell Lightning, Triumph Tiger, Genuine Stella...



Dieselgate fine was $2.5B in the US. This was a fine for $120M. Dieselgate was for actively making a “cheat program” that allowed the car to meet emissions testing requirements but used different programming when not in the emissions testing pattern. This was a fine for emissions-related reporting errors. That’s the reason that the fines are so different in scale.

IMO, the NYT article misses the mark. I don’t doubt that Toyota was in violation of the reporting requirements; else they’d not have accepted the fine. But, wow, the article is short on details of what the heck actually happened. The EPA link the NYT quoted as support of Toyota’s pattern of wrongdoing doesn’t even specifically mention Toyota. They are shown on 3 different graphs and they are right where one would expect them as a full line manufacturer in regard to fuel efficiency.