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GM fined $145.8 million after US finds excess emissions

GM is the latest carmaker to get slapped with hefty fuel economy penalties.
Olivia Peluso
General Motors building
Photo by Elishia Jayye on Unsplash

American carmaker General Motors will pay a US$145.8 penalty after a government investigation found excess emissions from approximately 5.9 million GM vehicles, agencies said Wednesday. 

In addition to paying the penalty, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the carmaker had agreed to give up approximately 50 million metric tonnes in carbon credits that it had received for complying with federal rules after a multi-year investigation found cars from the 2012 to 2018 model years were emitting more than 10% higher carbon dioxide on average than the company’s initial compliance reports stated. GM will also give up roughly 30.6 million gas mileage credits from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In a statement to Reuters, GM, which sells Buick, Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac vehicles, said it "has at all times complied with and adhered to all applicable laws and regulations in the certification and in-use testing of the vehicles in-question," but added, "this is the best course of action to swiftly resolve outstanding issues with the federal government regarding this matter."

The vehicles include 4.6 million 2012 to 2018 full-size pickup trucks and SUVs and some 1.3 million 2012 to 2018 midsize SUVs. 

Wednesday’s announcement still pales in comparison to Volkswagen’s 2015 diesel emissions case, when VW admitted to equipping around 11 million cars worldwide with software designed to cheat emissions tests. The German carmaker later agreed to pay fines of roughly $20 billion. 

The EPA is not alleging that GM used a defeat device to reduce vehicle emissions in testing intentionally and is also not seeking a recall of the GM vehicles that generated excess emissions. 

"EPA's vehicle standards depend on strong oversight in order to deliver public health benefits in the real world," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. "Our investigation has achieved accountability and upholds an important program that's reducing air pollution and protecting communities across the country."

In June 2023, NHTSA said GM paid $128.2 million in fuel economy penalties for not meeting requirements in 2016 and 2017. GM had not previously paid a fine in the 40-year history of the fuel economy program. It had initially planned to use credits to meet its compliance shortfall but opted to pay, NHTSA said. 

Last year, the agency proposed increasing fuel economy standards for model years 2027 through 2032 which would cost GM an estimated US$6.5 billion. Under the rule issued last month, NHTSA said the carmaker could face US$906 million in penalties through 2031.