By on March 8, 2022

A few years ago, you couldn’t sneeze in an elevator without it landing on at least one automotive executive in trouble for diesel emissions cheating. Following Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal in 2015, regulators around the globe smelled blood in the water and the feeding frenzy began. Diesel cars that were previously championed as the cleaner alternative in Europe were now public enemy number one. Manufacturers responsible for long-lasting engines with high efficiencies were subjected to enhanced scrutiny. It was something of a sooty witch hunt and has gradually lost steam as the world found new, more immediate things to be outraged with.

But that doesn’t mean nobody has been checking up on them. Hino Motors, Toyota’s truck and bus arm, has confessed that it caught itself cheating after launching an internal investigation into its North American operations. Apparently, some products that should have been subject to Japan’s 2016 emission regulations were not — among some other issues.  

“Based on the findings to date, Hino believes that it failed to appropriately respond to internal pressures to achieve certain targets and meet schedules that were placed on Hino employees,” the company explained in a prepared statement.

Hino has frozen sales of its Ranger, Profia, and S’elega products in Japan, citing that fuel economy ratings tabulated during testing had been tampered with by engineers. The manufacturer apologized profusely (at least for a corporate press release) and said that it would be treating the matter without the utmost seriousness.

Though Hino might not be quite so innocent as it first seems. For starters, it didn’t actually discover the problem. U.S. regulators had reportedly already flagged some inconsistencies with the company’s emission reporting, leading to the Department of Justice launching an investigation. But the release pens it as the if its the other way round:

After internally identifying potential issues regarding certification testing to determine the emissions performance of on-road engines for the North American market, Hino voluntarily commenced an investigation led by outside counsel and provided an initial report of its findings to the relevant regulators. Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Justice commenced an investigation. Hino is fully cooperating with investigations by the relevant authorities.

Hino then expanded the scope of the investigation to include a review of emissions certification procedures for engines certified to Japanese regulatory standards. In conjunction with that investigation, Hino has also conducted verification testing of engine performance including emissions and fuel economy.

Hino has identified misconduct related to the certification procedures for multiple engine models subject to the 2016 emissions regulations (so-called ‘post- post- new long-term regulations’; the “2016 Emission Regulations”) and fuel economy standards in Japan and found problems in engine performance. Therefore, Hino has decided to suspend the sale of the A05C (HC-SCR), A09C, E13C engines and vehicles equipped with those engines. While Hino also identified a problem concerning the fuel economy performance of the N04C (Urea-SCR) engine, no misconduct in relation to its certification testing has been identified to date.

[Update 3/10/2022: Hino reached out to us to complain about the way we framed the timeline to suggest the DOJ was likely the first one to flag the problem, despite having no issue with us accusing it of emissions cheating in the headline. The spokesperson seemed particularly perturbed that we didn’t cite anyone else claiming government regulators were first to the punch and assumed this wasn’t a wholly voluntary confession. That makes this a matter of he-said-she-said, which is often what news tends to end up being anyway. But we endeavor to be as honest as possible and have to acknowledge the possibility that the corporate chimps working for Hino may be telling the truth. 

For what it’s worth the DOJ has only said that its investigation was “independent” of the company, which does not automatically preclude Hino from flagging fist. But there are other outlets making similar claims that regulators shot first (here’s one from MotorBiscuit and another from The Japan Times that’s a little murkier). Either way, it’s always worth doing some follow-up research on your own and never assuming any one story is totally settled.]

Regulators are typically overbearing and often out of touch. But automakers aren’t angels and have occasionally endangered their own customers in an effort to protect profits. That makes this issue fairly minimal in the grand scheme of things. But Hino’s excuse is so close to VW’s back when it had to explain its own emissions cheating that I’m hesitant to call this an oversight on the part of the manufacturer.

The company has said it’s sold at least 150,000 vehicles to customers that it believes might need to be recalled, with the initial steps having already been taken. The biggest issue is trucks producing more NOX emissions than regulators officially allow and vehicles being listed with fuel economies that were not representative of real-world driving. Hino said it will be more mindful in the future and will be establishing a special committee consisting of independent experts that will propose corrective measures to their engine development processes.

[Image: Art Konovalov/Shutterstock]

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20 Comments on “Toyota’s Hino Motors Confesses to Diesel Emissions Cheating [UPDATED]...”

  • avatar

    So without doing an exhaustive search, are GM and Ford the only major OEMs who didn’t cheat on diesel emissions in some form?

    • 0 avatar

      Very possible. The two just didn’t sell many diesels in the hotly contested brackets.

      Truth if the matter is; all of them build and sell almost the exactly the same engines. If some “cheat” and get away with it, so does everyone, or they won’t be competitive. It’s like professional cycling: If Lance dopes, you ain’t going to be competitive unless you do as well.

      • 0 avatar

        Judging by the stink that follows them (one of few exceptions when I’d speed during my commute only to not be behind one of these) I’d be surprised if they did. Either they are just as noncompliant as the rest (but with their usually larger displacement their emissions are proportionally larger), their owners are notorious for tampering with emission control equipment or both of these (and quite likely so).

        • 0 avatar

          GM and Ford don’t need to cheat with their diesel pickups. The owners* will retune them to resemble a locomotive before long, anyway.

          *specifically, the owners who need to compensate for a particular personal biological shortcoming

    • 0 avatar

      and Mazda, depending on what you consider “major OEM”.

      • 0 avatar

        And TESLA too did not cheat. Unlike Mazda Tesla is a major automaker worth trillion $$.

        • 0 avatar

          >And TESLA too did not cheat. Unlike Mazda Tesla is a major automaker worth trillion $$.

          Now if they can work on their quality and lack of spare parts (long waiting times) for their existing vehicles (any such parts are reserved for the actual production line)….

          Even Lord Elon Musk recently called for an increase in oil and gas production… Hmm….

        • 0 avatar

          Globally, Mazda is still comfortably outselling Tesla. And that despite Mazda buyers having to help pitch in for Tesla buyers’ car, in most countries by now.

    • 0 avatar

      To my knowledge, don’t think HMG has had issues with its diesels in Europe, Korea or Australia.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “… it would be treating the matter without the utmost seriousness.”

    I think you meant “with”.

  • avatar

    then he got caught and overnight? POS.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Those annoying ads for the 2022 Toyota Tundra are popping up again. Toyota must be having a hard time convincing the public that their turbo 6 is better than their V-8. Toyota is really pushing the Tundra.

    • 0 avatar

      What are they supposed to do? They came out with a brand new, giant-engined pickup; at a point in time when gas prices doubled overnight, and American’s pickup loan terms are already pushing 10 years……

      I suppose the only upside; being in Texas; is that soon-to-be redundant workers may be leaving for greener pastures in the oil sector, entirely of their own volition…

  • avatar
    Lawyer Applegate

    The key defining element of a “witch hunt” is that the witches sought don’t exist. Since the auto industry appears to have been rife with sooty cheats, this wasn’t a witch hunt at all – it was a successful investigation of illegal activity.

    I get it, you’re wicked Libertarian and whatnot, but the amount of misplaced snark in this article is pathetic.

    • 0 avatar

      This. Most post-Euro 5 diesels were fraudulent products, and having the full weight of the law come down on their makers was entirely appropriate. A “witch hunt” is what the Florida legislature is doing to LGBTQIA+ kids who never did anything wrong.

  • avatar

    VW got caught because some college professors and students hooked up an emission sensor to a car and drove it. How hard is that for a government or OE ? Now we know why GM, Ford, etc never went all-in for passenger car diesel. BMW and Benz diesels in the US are problematic for carbon buildup…maybe different calibration ? I don’t think BMW was involved in cheating, but the five figure bills to clean up a 335d heads and intake are a deterrent. For the record, I liked my TDi until the DPF cracked and I realized it wasn’t the diesel Golf of old….but I did get checks !

    • 0 avatar

      VW dieselgate was a smokescreen obscuring real issue of school buses and other heavy diesel trucks that don’t seem to be subject to or are not even pretending to comply with any emission regulations. If our government has simply applied “chicken tax” to imported diesel cars it would not have to pretend to care about environment.

  • avatar

    No patience when I’m following people driving Buicks, Toyota or Hyundais.

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