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Mazda Motor of America to Settle Clean Air Act Case

Release Date: 09/30/99
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http://WWW.USDOJ.GOV EPA: (202)

Mazda Motor of America to Settle Clean Air Act Case
Automaker to improve defect reporting system, pay $900,000 penalty

Mazda Motor of America, Inc. will pay a $900,000 penalty and change its defect reporting system for emissions equipment to settle claims that it violated the Clean Air Act, the Justice Department and the EPA announced today.

A settlement filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia settles civil claims that Irvine, Cal-based Mazda failed to promptly report a defect in an emissions control device in its MPV minivans.

"Prompt disclosure of emissions-related defects by automakers is critical to assuring the public that it is driving clean cars," said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources.

The 226,000 MPV minivans covered by the settlement -- model year 1989 through 1994 -- are equipped with a part that can crack or break. When the part fails, gasoline vapors are emitted to the atmosphere at a level that substantially exceeds EPA’s fuel evaporative emissions standard. In addition, passengers may detect a gasoline odor in the passenger compartment when the part fails.

EPA regulations require an automaker to file an emissions defect report with the agency within 15 working days after the automaker determines that an emission-related defect exists in 25 or more vehicles of the same model year. The government alleged that Mazda knew of the defect years before it filed a defect report with the EPA in November 1996. The late filing affected EPA’s ability to take prompt action to address the defect.

In addition to paying a penalty and changing its emissions-control defect investigation and reporting system, Mazda will extend the warranty on the defective part on all 1989 through 1994 MPV minivans for a total of 11 years and without any mileage limitation.

While Mazda had previously advised owners of these minivans of a similar warranty extension under an agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the automaker will send out a second consumer advisory of the extended warranty and also notify the owners that they do not have to wait for the part to fail before having the vapor separator replaced.

“Reporting violations are not just paper violations. These are serious violations that may result in serious health and environmental problems,” said Steve Herman, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement Compliance and Assurance. “Today’s action’s is a tangible example of how federal enforcement can benefit public health and the environment.”

The part’s failure in the Mazda minivans means excess air toxics are released into the atmosphere, as well as hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are a component of ozone, which can aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma. EPA believes that the potential harm to public health and the environment will be will be greatly reduced by the actions required under the settlement. Consumers also will benefit by having the defective part replaced free of charge by Mazda.

“Today’s settlement with a $900,000 penalty underscores the detrimental consequences for a manufacturer’s failure to follow the Clean Air Act provision concerning self-reporting of a defective emission product to the government,” said Wilma A. Lewis, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. “Mazda has now been held accountable and will undertake meaningful steps to remedy this violation of federal environmental law.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Mazda is also required to reimburse the affected minivan owners if they repaired a defective vapor separator at their own expense. The defect has not been detected in model year 1995 and later Mazda MPV minivans, and these vehicles are not affected by the settlement.

Local Mazda dealerships can be located on Mazda’s website, under “Site Highlights,” or by calling Mazda’a customer service number 1-800-222-5500.

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