By on November 8, 2019

The Justice Department has issued civil subpoenas to the four major automakers’ that voluntary agreed to adopt a Californian compromise on vehicle emission requirements. The antitrust investigation seeks to determine whether or not BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen were in violation of federal competition laws by agreeing with each other to adhere to stricter emissions standards penned by California.

With the Trump administration working for years to roll back emissions standards, California has been doing everything in its power to maintain its ability to self-regulate and gain support for higher emission standards. Under the agreement with the Golden State, the companies promised to meet annual emission improvement targets of 3.7 percent and defer to the state’s authority to set its own emissions standards.

The DOJ reached out to the carmakers in August to assess whether they had coordinated with each other before agreeing to the state’s adjusted guidelines — as any previous communications on the issue would raise the possibility of an antitrust violation. Congressional Democrats have also bashed the investigation as being too partisan, while the EPA continues to claim the only tenable solution is one national standard.

Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, has previously stated that the state worked with each automaker individually, suggesting that all parties were careful to not to break any rules. But her assurance doesn’t seem to have been sufficient, since the DOJ is now issuing civil investigative demands.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the subpoenas don’t actually obligate the automakers to hand over internal documents but does force them to answer any questions relation to collusion directly. If evidence emerges later that they were lying, it can be used against them — because they definitely aren’t going to say “of course we colluded.”

That leaves little incentive for them to fess up to any misdeeds, but we have seen manufacturers confess to cooperating illegally in the past in the hopes of receiving a lesser penance. Of course, that only goes if they actually violated antitrust laws.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Justice Department’s top antitrust official, Makan Delrahim, in Senate testimony in September said the probe wasn’t political, describing the investigation as a fact-finding mission. He said companies can’t cooperate among themselves, even to advance socially laudable goals.

BMW and Honda said they are cooperating with the department. Spokesmen for Ford, Volkswagen and the Justice Department declined to comment.

 

[Image: Michael Vi/Shutterstock]

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56 Comments on “Justice Department Subpoenas Automakers Over California Emissions Pact...”


  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    I am shocked that any automotive OEM’s are accused of collusion in any form, ever, any time in history.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Fishing for technicalities is a pretty strong sign of weakness…..a desperate last gasp….in the absence of a whistleblower you’re basically just a crazy person shouting on a street corner…

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Honestly, If I were running the show I would take this as an endorsement of the CA standards by these automakers which I would instruct my EPA to now make the national standards. If/When they can’t I would give them no leniency on the fines and other punitive measures. Why fight them if they are onboard, but if you as an automaker get on board don’t come back after the next economic downturn crying that it costs too much to meet the standards you were onboard with. You knew what you were getting into.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      It’s not an endorsement, because they don’t give a goddamn.

      It’s “we’ll do anything to keep that nice big California car market open”.

      I’d instruct the EPA to do no such thing, because California is not magically right because it’s California or because “more restrictive is always better”.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        The EPA was trying to throw these companies a bone. They said “No thanks, we can meet the tougher standards”.

        OK, then meet them…Right or wrong, the automakers have spoken. So go forth then…the matter should be settled.

    • 0 avatar

      Totally agree with you Art. If they want to hang themselves let them do that. Why Government has to help automakers? Oh, there is a new American Civil War is going on. But one fought by lawyers not soldiers.

    • 0 avatar
      Oberkanone

      California as a state has no more status to set emissions standards than any other state after their exemption is revoked.

      Justice department is doing it’s job. I support a single national policy. If this is a step in achieving the goal then good.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>California as a state has no more status to set emissions standards than any other state after their exemption is revoked. <<

        iirc California's authority to set it's own emissions standards is in the Clean Air Act. The CAA is an act of Congress and can only be changed by an act of Congress, not Presidential decree.

  • avatar
    readallover

    And once again, The G.O.P. shows its` undying commitment to states` rights.

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      You’re confused, it was the Democrats that were big on state’s rights…so they could keep segregation laws.

      • 0 avatar
        Snooder

        Oh, for crying out loud.

        The G.O.P. of today is essentially the Southern Democrat party of 1860. Same states, same voter base, same general platform. The segregationists (Strom Thurmond, etc) all decamped from the Democrats to the Republican Party in the 50s and 60s.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Yet for some reason we still had Democrat KKK members in the federal government as recently as 10 years ago. The party switch meme the left likes to pull is not based in fact.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            History shows us that your assertion is not rue. Prior to the Civil War, the Republican Party was ant-slavery, the Democratic Party was the party of Southern slaveowners. Reconstruction reinforced the Democrat support of white Southerners, while black voters favoured Republicans.

            In the early 1960’s, this pattern began to change – Kennedy introduced the Civil Rights Act, which Johnson was able get through Congress in 1964 (ironically, with Republican support). In that election, Goldwater (who had voted against it), attracted the support of white Southerners, and won 5 (iirc) southern states. He lost all the rest, except Arizona.

            After 1964, the Republicans adopted the Southern Strategy, which was a direct appeal to segregationists who felt betrayed by Johnson and the Democratic Party to come on over to them. Which, over time, they increasingly did. Meanwhile, black voters increasingly felt betrayed by Republican recruitment of Southern white support and increasingly voted Democrat.

            As Southern whites (and later Evangelicals) transformed the Republican Party, Northeastern voters (in particular) increasingly turned Democrat. All this played out over 2-3 decades.

            So yes, there has been a realignment of the 2 major parties, which the voting data clearly shows.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            “ Barry Goldwater’s position regarding the Civil Right Act of 1964. Goldwater did oppose that bill in its final form because he argued that it was unconstitutional, in that it usurped state and individual rights. Goldwater had helped found the Arizona’s NAACP, and he had voted for earlier versions of the civil rights legislation. Thus, Goldwater’s opposition was not similar to the Democrats’ opposition based on racism; Goldwater’s opposition was based on the interpretation of the Constitution that guarantees basic individual rights.

            President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, signed the civil right bill in to law; however, Johnson himself had labored tirelessly against earlier civil rights legislation. By signing that bill, Johnson merely demonstrated that he had come to believe that the way for Democrats to get and keep power in future was to pacify and humor blacks, instead of denigrating them and segregating them from whites.“

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          “The segregationists (Strom Thurmond, etc) all decamped from the Democrats to the Republican Party in the 50s and 60s.”

          Well, that explains why the South was solid Democrat up until Reagan was elected in 1980.

          You can point fingers all day, but at the end of the day there were and are elements of both parties that were racially motivated. I have listened to those LBJ tapes…That dude was as racist as they come.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            And it really wasn’t until the 1994 Mid-Terms that the South turned solid red. The big switch is a convenient myth.

            BTW, I lived in Georgia when Sonny Perdue was elected in 2002. Interesting since he was the first Republican Governer in the state SINCE RECONSTRUCTION!!!

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            “And it really wasn’t until the 1994 Mid-Terms that the South turned solid red. The big switch is a convenient myth.”

            Sorry, but that argument is off the mark.

            https://time.com/4561347/presidential-election-results-interactive/

            The south turned red starting in 1972, and pretty much has been since, with three notable exceptions: 1976, 1992 and 1996, when southerners ran as Democrats (Carter and Clinton). I’d argue the big switch started in 1968, when most of the south voted for a segregationist third party candidate – Wallace wasn’t a Republican, but it was obvious the Democrats had rejected their segregationist wing by then. Four years later, all the states that voted for Wallace went for Nixon.

            And, yes, LBJ was a racist SOB. But denying him his due credit for the civil rights movement misses the point. He did push it through, and he did sign it. Was it a political move? Sure. But it was the right thing to do, so who cares? Only Nixon could go to China, you know?

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        That was over 50 years ago. Ya know, things change. You are conveniently ignoring (or ignorant of) the GOP’s Southern strategy.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          Conveniently ignoring reality is the Republican Way.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Says the group furiously praising LBJ for heralding modern civil rights.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Conveniently ignored reality is how the Pedoocrats still have sheep willing to vote against Donald Trump while living in the refuse of blue cities.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Explain to me why LBJ shouldn’t be praised for his contribution to the civil rights movement, please.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Right after you explain to me why the Republicans who actually supported the civil rights movement shouldn’t be praised for it instead of the cynical demon who saw an opportunity to keep blacks second class citizens dependent on their Democrat abusers for another couple hundred years.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Oh now I’m triggered. That son-of-a-b!tch LBJ should be ritually burned in effigy for:

            -“Great Society”
            -Gulf of Tonkin/further escalation of Vietnam
            -Both of the above, which besides hundreds of thousands of deaths, led to the end of Bretton Woods and the Nixon Shock which ***has*** destroyed the currency even prior to 2008.
            -Medicare which currently has liabilities of $37 trillion.
            -Complicity in the Kennedy assassination.

            and let’s not forget his famous quip:

            https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-democratic-partys-two_b_933995

            F*** him.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            The civil rights bill LBJ signed was a simple appeasement, it didn’t go far enough, as it didn’t go by the constitutions interpretation of basic individual rights as it should have.

            As LBJ famously said, “ These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference.”

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            color me surprised that Toddy dodges yet another question with “how about YOU explain to me…”

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            If you were smarter than a bag of hair, you’d have noticed that my question contains the answer to FreedMike’s question. It is little wonder why you’re as ignorant as you demonstrate every time you touch a keyboard.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I like a couple of the things Trump has done, but this asinine behavior is unacceptable.

    It’s breathtaking to see a president happily commit so many unforced errors to the point where you can’t rationalize them as errors – it’s just shocking stupidity mixed with vindictive pettiness.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    This is good news. I’m tired of CA trying to impose their climate-alarmist policies on the rest of the nation.

  • avatar
    Oldschool

    As a born n raised Californian, I’m so sick and tired of this damn state’s insanely strict environmental and smog laws. I can’t believe we keep having to discuss emission related issues from new vehicles when pretty much every new vehicle made within the last 7-10 years doesn’t smell from its exhaust and are very clean burning.

    Once EV’s become a “thing” in this state and or the norm in about 10 years, CA won’t have much need for smog checks in the future as EV’s don’t emit any pollution. As for fuel economy standards I believe we have maxed out the ICE and it’s fuel efficient capabilities that is compromising durability with the use of tiny 1. Nothing engines and like 100 speed transmissions. I mean how much more MPG’s can automakers gain with current and future tech without making serious compromises to engine cooling and reliability? We all know weight reduction is key to improving fuel economy, but it seems like cars, trucks, CUV’s and SUV’s are all seemly getting heavier due to ever increasing safety standards and all the tech features which adds more weight to vehicles than ever before. It’s not like the body panels are strong or thick, unlike cars from way back in the day that used heavy gauge sheet metal. So it’s all the underlying equipment we don’t see and all that tech weighs a lot because you have more wiring and computer control modules everywhere.

    CA can go you know what itself! This state has been strangleholding it’s drivers for decades with the highest gas prices in the nation, to the harshest smog laws to the very high registration fees. CA can’t get enough power and control in government as it’s a drug to them.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Seems LA still has some nasty smog the few times I’ve flown through there. I guess you want it to be nastier?

      • 0 avatar
        Master Baiter

        LA’s smog is largely the result of geography. It had smog before humans settled there.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Don’t waste your time with facts, MB. Remember, having a constructive conversation with fanatics is impossible. They are not rational.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          LA’s smog problem is certainly caused largely by geography. However, you need something for that geography to trap. From Wikipedia:

          Photochemical smog, as found for example in Los Angeles, is a type of air pollution derived from vehicular emission from internal combustion engines and industrial fumes. These pollutants react in the atmosphere with sunlight to form secondary pollutants that also combine with the primary emissions to form photochemical smog. In certain other cities, such as Delhi, smog severity is often aggravated by stubble burning in neighboring agricultural areas. The atmospheric pollution levels of Los Angeles, Beijing, Delhi, Lahore, Mexico City, Tehran and other cities are often increased by an inversion that traps pollution close to the ground. The developing smog is usually toxic to humans and can cause severe sickness, a shortened life span, or premature death.

          So yeah, facts first. Imagine what LA would be like today had there been little progress on reducing pollution. I’m just old enough to remember the stink of car exhaust, grease streaks on the road from open crankcases, and the billowing black filth out of diesel trucks and buses. All dramatically reduced, despite a major increase in vehicle miles driven, by regulation. Funny how so much ignorant hate is put on these particular regulations when, in fact, they have been some of the most successful.

    • 0 avatar
      AtoB

      “As for fuel economy standards I believe we have maxed out the ICE and it’s fuel efficient capabilities that is compromising durability with the use of tiny 1. Nothing engines and like 100 speed transmissions. I mean how much more MPG’s can automakers gain with current and future tech without making serious compromises to engine cooling and reliability?”

      I will point out Mazda claims a thermal efficiency of 56% from their upcoming Skyactiv engines, a big step up from the 40% efficiency of the cuerrent Skyactiv series (and Toyotas best) which itself is a big step up from most currently available ICE engines at about 25% thermal efficiency.

      Add to this cylinder deactivation, 6 and 8 cycle combustion, FIATs multi-air valvetrain or just using a small hyper efficient ICE as a RE for an EV in the BMW i3 it is clear gasoline ICE have much to give.

      Then there’s natural gas engines which offer lower fuel costs, lower maintenance, (thanks to clean burning fuel), lower emissions, potential home refueling, and possibly up to 700+ miles/tank just by using the HFV tank from the Clarity or Mirai with a standard hybrid vehicle drivetrain.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        ICE engines are far from dead. The fact that you have a radiator throwing away all that heat tells you there are more efficiencies to be had. And frankly, electric cars are not going to solve emission problems; they just relocate the source of pollution to another location. Hydro/renewable power excepted.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree I think we have reached our limits as to how much cleaner and more efficient ICE engines can become. Maybe use more carbon fiber instead of steel but even that is incremental. Many states are not getting as much fuel tax revenue from fuel and are now planning on taxing EVs–Ohio is planning doing that and has raised the fuel tax. One way or the other states will find a way to make up for lower revenue from fuel taxes. California will find someway to have paid inspections for EVs and to tax them once they become more numerous.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Art Vandelay–That is also true for Kentucky as well and some of the old time Democratic politicians have become Republicans. Much of the South changed from Democrat to Republican after LBJ and Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Ironic since the party of Lincoln has become the party of many of the old line Democrats who opposed Civil Rights. Also ironic since Republicans in the past have been strong States Rights advocates and now Trump wants to force California to abide by less strict efficiency standards. Let California have their own standards much more important things our President needs to direct his attention to.

    • 0 avatar
      Roader

      The Democratic Party is still the racist party. It’s just that they’ve changed races over the past 50 years. This guy started it:

      “I’ll have then n*****s voting Democratic for a hundred years!”
      President Lyndon Johnson, 1965

    • 0 avatar
      285exp

      Jeff, you have it backwards. Why should the other states be forced to buy the cars that California wants them to? Trump isn’t taking away Californias right to demand that it’s citizens buy more EVs and fewer F150s and massively overpowered European luxury cars, they can do that all on their own. What about the rights of the other states?

  • avatar
    Steve203

    GM, FCA and Toyota have backed Trump’s position on emissions.

    Are GM, FCA and Toyota also being investigated for colluding in supporting Trump, or is the administration trying to punish the 4 automakers that supported California’s position by rousting them with subpoenas?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @285exp–No California has had its own standards in the past. If manufacturers want to offer vehicles to all 50 states that are compliant with California standards then they should be allowed to. If California wanted standards that were less than what the EPA required then that would be different. This is a battle not worth fighting much better to focus on other issues–infrastructure and negotiating a workable trade deal. I am a lot more concerned about being forced to have more corn ethanol in my fuel than tougher fuel efficiency standards. End the trade war with China and allow the farmers to sell their products to China which is much more significant than forcing higher ethanol on the rest of us and not only paying for it thru subsidies but damage to our vehicles.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    May I also add that this will be tied up in courts for years. California needs to look at the recent compromise that the EPA has offered and both sides need to work from that point. Both the EPA and California need to do their jobs and come up with a compromise enough time and taxpayer money is being wasted.

  • avatar
    ravenuer

    I’m confused. Didn’t all car manufacturers have an agreement with California to meet their standards for many years? If so, why didn’t the government subpoena them before? Why now?

  • avatar
    Fliggin_De_Fluge

    Wow there are a lot of delusional low IQ people in these kinds of threads. It’s really easy to see why Trump will be re-elected. These every 2-3 day clickbait threads are fun though, it exposes them.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “Wow there are a lot of delusional low IQ people in these kinds of threads.”

      Hm. Well.

      “This is a tough hurricane. One of the wettest we’ve ever seen from the standpoint of water.” – Donald J. Trump, Sept. 18 2019.

      If you’re going to brag about your support of a man who speaks like a child put on the spot to explain himself, you might want to refrain from taking potshots at other people’s IQs.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The articles on EPA versus the State of California keep coming up on this website. Nothing any of us can do about this lets move on to a real car story. How about another junkyard segment.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @FreedMike–Agree having come of age during that time you are correct. I was raised in Houston and lived there for 28 years and saw the change from a predominantly Democratic state to the transition to Republican starting in the 70’s. I remember when Houston’s first indoor Mall, Sharpstown Mall opened in the Fall of 1961, it had segregated restrooms and water fountains which in 2 years time were eliminated. I also remember the poll tax which was eliminated just before the Civil Rights Act was past. True President Johnson was a racist at one time but let’s give Johnson credit for getting the Civil Rights Act passed an act that President Kennedy most likely could not get passed because of being from Massachusetts. Johnson called in every political favor that was owed him and worked tirelessly to get the Civil Rights Act passed which was the right thing to do but it did hurt the Democratic Party in the South.

    Also true that Goldwater was not a racist but he interpreted the Civil Rights Act in the strictest Constitutional way. Goldwater was not the most popular candidate but he was a man of his word and did not play political games.

    I currently live in Kentucky for the past 32 years and have seen the shift from a Democratic to a Republican state. The shift was more gradual in Kentucky and it did not happen as soon as it did in the rest of the South. Clinton did carry Kentucky in both 92 and 96 and Carter in 76 but for the most part in recent years it has been solid Republican except the recent Governors race which had a very unpopular Governor Mat Bevin (Republican) versus Andy Beshear (Democrat). Bevin has demanded a recount because he lost by 5,000 votes but if it would have been another Republican that Republican would have probably won by a large margin.

    Kentucky had state emissions inspections for a number of years until the past 10 years when the state agreed to use reformulated gas in order to wave the EPA required emission inspection mandate for the higher populated areas of Louisville, Lexington, and Northern Kentucky (Boone, Campbell, and Kenton Cos) which is basically the Cincinnati metropolitan area.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    California has at it’s disposal tools to control vehicle emissions without controlling emissions standards for the nation.
    Vehicle registration fees, vehicle excise tax, plate fees, and more.


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