ARB Orders Repair Plan for 330,000 Toyota and Lexus Autos

3 September 1998

ARB Orders Repair Plan for 330,000 Toyota and Lexus Autos
    SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept. 2 -- The California Environmental
Protection Agency's Air Resources Board (ARB) today ordered the recall of
approximately 330,000 1996-98 model-year Toyota and Lexus autos because the
vehicles' defective on-board computers fail to detect gasoline vapor leaks
under normal driving conditions.
    "It is unfortunate that Toyota, which positions itself as an
environmentally sensitive company, would resist recalling these vehicles and
correcting this problem," said ARB Chief Deputy Executive Officer Tom
Cackette.  "We hope this matter will be resolved quickly," he added.
    ARB's order requires Toyota to develop a repair plan that must be approved
by ARB engineers.  The order could require Toyota to install at its expense
new onboard diagnostic system (OBD II) computers that properly detect
emissions problems.   ARB staff estimates the cost to replace those computers
at up to $250 each.
    Toyota rejected an ARB request to voluntarily resolve the issue and
correct the computer problem.  State law subjects auto manufacturers to
substantial fines for each vehicle that does not meet California emission
standards.
    California regulations require automakers to equip vehicles with an OBD II
system, a part of the vehicle's computer that alerts the driver of engine and
emission-control system malfunctions by illuminating a dashboard warning
light.  OBD II systems play an important role in reducing emissions,
particularly from aging motor vehicles.
    An ARB investigation found that the Toyota and Lexus OBD II systems work
properly under laboratory conditions but fail to detect vapor leaks from gas
tanks, vapor lines and other areas of the fuel system under normal on-road
use.
    State and federal laws prohibit the use of devices that reduce the
effectiveness of emission-control equipment unless those devices are approved
when vehicles are certified for sale.  Toyota failed to disclose design
elements that significantly weaken the OBD II system's ability to detect vapor
leaks under normal operating conditions when ARB certified the 1996-98
vehicles for sale in California.  Gasoline vapors contain cancer-causing
substances and contribute significantly to the formation of smog.
    Toyota and Lexus owners will be contacted by the company when an
ARB-approved repair plan is finalized.
    The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental
Protection Agency.  ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health,
welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air
pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy.  The ARB
oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and
maintain health based air quality standards.



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