Lawsuit goes ahead as Toyota refuses to settle with EPA

The US Department of Justice has sued Toyota Motor Sales USA for allegedly selling Toyota and Lexus vehicles with illegal emission control monitoring systems. The suit, filed on behalf of the EPA, argues that Toyota has breached the Clean Air Act.


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Faulty, and therefore illegal, software in vehicles’ emission control monitoring systems has been the cause of several recent EPA enforcements. Toyota is the first car manufacturer to refuse to settle with the EPA.

The on-board diagnostic systems in question are supposed to detect leak in the evaporative emission system. If leaks are detected a light should illuminate with a notice such as “check engine” or “service engine soon”. The US DOJ case contends that Toyota’s faulty emissions monitoring systems could permit increased emissions of hydrocarbon vapours without car owners’ knowledge.

Hydrocarbon emissions contribute to ground-level ozone (also known as smog).

The lawsuit involves 2.2 million vehicles manufactured by Toyota with model years 1996-1998. They include: Camrys, Avalons, Corollas, Tercels, Paseos, Lexus cars, Sienna mini vans, 4Runners, RAV4s, Tacomas and T100s.

The faulty diagnostic systems were discovered by the California Air Resources Board (CARB)during routine testing in 1997. CARB is pursuing a separate enforcement act that would involve the recall of certain Toyota vehicles sold in California.

In October 1998, it was announced that seven manufacturers of heavy-duty diesel engines would spend nearly $1 billion to settle charges that they installed illegal software that disables engines’ emission control systems. In June 1998, settlement was reached with American Honda Motor Company and Ford Motor Company on similar charges.

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