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In the largest-ever penalty for a violation of the Clean Air Act, the Korean automakers Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors will pay the federal government a combined $300 million as part of a settlement for overstating vehicle fuel-economy standards on 1.2 million cars, Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency officials said on Monday.

The action, announced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Gina McCarthy, the E.P.A. administrator, is part of a broader, more aggressive enforcement effort by federal regulators on the auto industry. Analysts said it was meant to send a clear message to automakers that they would be harshly treated for compromising federal rules.

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