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Toyota to pay record fine for decade of air quality law violations

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Toyota Motor is set to pay a fine of $ 180 million for long-standing violations of the Clean Air Act, the Manhattan attorney’s office said Thursday, the largest civil penalty ever imposed for a violation of federal reporting requirements. emissions.

Between 2005 and around 2015, the global automaker consistently failed to report faults that interfered with how its cars controlled tailpipe emissions, violating standards designed to protect public health and the environment from harmful air pollutants, according to a complaint filed in Manhattan.

Toyota officials and staff in Japan were aware of the practice but failed to stop it, and the automaker most likely sold millions of defective vehicles, the attorneys’ office said.

Toyota has turned a blind eye to the non-compliance, Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. lawyer, said in a statement. Toyota has agreed not to challenge the fine.

Eric Booth, a spokesperson for the automaker, said the company alerted authorities as soon as the shortcomings were revealed and the delay in reporting resulted in negligible impact on emissions, if any.

Nonetheless, we recognize that some of our reporting protocols did not meet our own high standards, and we are glad we resolved this issue, added Booth.

Toyota is the second largest automaker in the world behind Volkswagen, and has once built a reputation for clean technology on the back of its best-selling Prius gasoline-electric hybrid passenger cars. But the auto giants’ decision in 2019 to support the Trump administration’s rollback of exhaust emission standards, coupled with its relatively slow introduction of fully electric vehicles, has made it a target of criticism from the share of environmental groups.

Toyotas’ newer model lineup has been heavy on gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles, which come with much higher price tags and have generated much higher profit margins. According to a recent report from the Environmental Protection AgencyToyota vehicles have produced some of the worst fuel savings 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.

Many automakers are now bracing for a likely push from the incoming Biden administration for a return to stricter tailpipe emissions rules, and have indicated they are determined to work with those responsible for administration.

It’s appalling that automakers cheat on pollution rules, but then want President Biden to negotiate with them over new clean car standards, said Dan Becker, who leads the campaign for safe climate transport at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. After having reneged on their previous commitments, why should we trust car manufacturers?

The auto industry has been plagued by emissions scandals in recent years. In 2017, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States government after admitting that it had rigged its diesel-powered cars to meet air quality standards while being tested, even though the cars exceeded these standards in regular driving. Last year, Daimler, another German automaker, agreed to pay $ 2.2 billion to settle charges that Mercedes-Benz cars and vans sold in the United States were programmed to cheat on testing. emissions.

Car owners have also been charged with tampering with their vehicles. A federal report this year concluded that owners and operators of more than half a million diesel pickup trucks have illegally disabled their vehicles’ emission control technology over the past decade, allowing excess emissions equivalent to 9 million. more trucks on the road.

Transport, which remains heavily dependent on fossil fuels, accounts for the majority of global warming emissions, ahead of emissions generated by the electricity, manufacturing or agricultural sectors. Scientists have long warned that cars and trucks around the world must ditch gasoline to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Recent estimates have shown that transportation-related emissions in the United States fell by nearly 15% in 2020, with millions of people stopped commuting to work and airlines canceling flights. But experts warn that emissions from cars and trucks will rebound unless policymakers take stronger action to keep emissions low.

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