8 March 2003

The US Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a settlement of the government’s lawsuit against Toyota Motor Corporation for Clean Air Act violations involving 2.2 million vehicles manufactured between 1996 and 1998. The lawsuit, filed in July 1999, charged Toyota failed to disclose limitations in the operation of the on-board diagnostic system, which would not signal drivers to a problem in the evaporative emission control systems by lighting their dashboard light.

The EPA believed that only a small number of affected vehicles are expected to have any problem in the evaporative emissions system at this time, which is why the government did not consider a recall in this case. Under the settlement Toyota will extend the evaporative emission control system warranty on affected vehicles from the current two years or 24,000 miles to 14 years or 150,000 miles. In addition, Toyota will accelerate its compliance with EPA’s new “near-zero” evaporative emissions regulation by approximately one year, and pay a $500,000 civil penalty.

An important part of the settlement is a supplemental environmental project, under which Toyota will spend $20 million to retrofit up to 3,000 public diesel fleet vehicles—not manufactured by Toyota—to make them run cleaner. This environmental project requires Toyota to spend $20 million to retrofit up to 3,000 diesel vehicles, including older, high-polluting school buses and municipal buses with pollution control equipment, such as catalytic converters, particulate filters or whole engines. Toyota may also subsidize the purchase of ultra low sulfur fuel for the retrofitted vehicles.

The case, filed in federal District Court in Washington, DC, involves model year 1996 through 1998 vehicles, including some Camry, Avalon, Corolla, Tercel, Paseo, Lexus, Sienna minivans, 4Runner, RAV4, Tacoma and T100 models. The settlement will cost Toyota an estimated $34 million.

Source: US EPA