Department of Justice Seal


MONDAY, JUNE 8, 1998 (202) 514-2008

TDD (202) 514-1888

EPA (202) 260-4355

USA-DC (202) 514-6933



Largest Clean Air Act Settlement in History

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- American Honda Motor Co., Inc. ("Honda") will spend $267 million to settle allegations that it violated the Clean Air Act by selling vehicles with disabled emission control diagnostic systems, the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Air Resources Board ("CARB") announced today. The settlement is the largest ever under the Clean Air Act. It includes $12.6 million in civil penalties -- the largest civil penalty in Clean Air Act history.

"This settlement is good for the environment and good for American consumers," said U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General Janet Reno. "It will help eliminate thousands of tons of exhaust emissions from more than 1.6 million vehicles across our nation. And it will help save Honda owners money because they will get an early warning that their car needs repair."

Carol M. Browner, EPA Administrator said, "Today's settlement is proof that this Administration is vigorously enforcing the Clean Air Act to ensure the protection of public health and the environment for all Americans."

The United States alleged that Honda disabled the misfire monitoring device on 1.6 million 1996 and 1997 model year Accords, Civics, Preludes, Odysseys, and Acuras, as well as 1995 Honda Civics. The complaint also alleged that Honda failed to report this fact when applying for Certificates of Conformity, which allow for vehicles to be legally sold if they meet federal emission standards.

The misfire monitoring device is part of an enhanced computer system, known as the "On-Board Diagnostic System ("OBD")," which checks a vehicle's emission performance when the vehicle is in use. When the misfire device is disabled during an engine misfire, the system's malfunction indicator light will not operate. Because the vehicle's owner is unaware that the engine needs to be serviced, increased exhaust emissions of hydrocarbons and damage to the vehicle's catalyst may occur.

Under an agreement filed today with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and a related agreement between Honda and CARB, Honda will extend the emissions warranty for all affected models to 14 years/150,000 miles, provide an engine check and any emissions-related repairs needed between 50,000 and 75,000 miles of use, and provide a free tune up between 75,000 and 150,000 miles of use, at a cost to Honda of at least $250,000 million. In addition, Honda will spend, under the federal and State agreements, $17.1 million, including $12.6 million in civil penalties -- the largest ever under the Clean Air Act -- and $4.5 million to implement environmental projects to reduce pollution.

"The settlement we announce today vindicates the Clean Air Act's goal of protecting our environment while avoiding a long, costly lawsuit," said Wilma A. Lewis, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. "We stand ready to ensure that those who violate environmental laws are held accountable and prosecuted whenever the facts warrant such action."

Honda cooperated with EPA and DOJ during the investigation.

Stressing the importance of a vehicle's on-board diagnostic system, EPA noted that auto mechanics rely on the diagnostic system to find and correct engine problems. If vehicle manufacturers do not fully comply with the OBD rules, problems may be overlooked and the results could be harmful to the environment and costly to the consumer. State emission regulators also rely on the data stored on this diagnostic tool to identify emission problems.

If Honda's violations had been left undetected, EPA estimates that more than 8,000 tons of hydrocarbons would have been emitted into the atmosphere by misfiring cars. Hydrocarbons are a component of ozone, which can aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma.

A notice of the proposed settlement will be published in the Federal Register, beginning a 30-day public comment period and must be approved by the court.