Release 98-52
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 2, 1998 
CONTACT:  Jerry Martin
(916) 322-2990
Richard Varenchik
(626) 575-6730
www.arb.ca.gov
 
ARB Orders Repair Plan for 330,000 Toyota and Lexus Autos

        SACRAMENTO   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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