By on February 11, 2020

The United States Department of Justice has ended its investigation into Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW over a presumed antitrust violation stemming from a deal they made with California to adhere to regional emission rules. Their agreement technically circumvents the current administration’s plan to freeze national emissions and fuel economy standards — established while President Obama was still in office — at 2021 levels through 2026. Under the California deal, the automakers promised to comply with pollution and gas mileage requirements that are more stringent than the federal standards suggested in the rollback proposal.

But the probe also looked like retaliation from the Trump administration against automakers publicly siding with the state causing the most trouble in the gas war. Under the deal, the automakers promised to comply with pollution and economy requirements that are tougher than proposed federal standards. Despite the corporate promise being as empty as an Oscar speech, it was still an affront to the current administration’s efforts to tamp down lofty efficiency targets put in place just days before it came into power.

While the Justice Department hasn’t explicitly said why it closed the investigation, it’s presumed that it simply didn’t find anything that it felt violated antitrust laws. California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Friday that he wasn’t surprised by the decision, stating that the “trumped-up charges were always a sham, a blatant attempt by the Trump administration to prevent more automakers from joining California and agreeing to stronger emissions standards.”

Frankly, we don’t even think the two sides are having the same argument anymore.

California has focused on combating climate change and pushing new technologies while the Trump administration said it’s committed to maintaining jobs, lowering the cost of automobiles via deregulation, and providing consumers with choice. They’ve both been jerks about getting their own way, too. However, the validity of their respective arguments likely hinges upon your own personal perspective.

California offered tons of pushback against the whole rollback thing, going to great lengths to ensure its continued self-regulation while getting as many other states to adhere to its targets as possible. In September, the state’s authority to set auto mileage standards was revoked. The issue will likely be tied up in federal courts for years, as the Golden State isn’t going to go down without a struggle — and has been extremely litigious throughout.

Since the rollback proposal still has not been finalized, it’s not clear how drastic it will ultimately be. The Environmental Protection Agency previously suggested halting existing efficiency mandates in 2021 (with previous drafts issuing the freeze a year earlier), with nothing set in stone. The president said in December to expect the final draft within the next 12 months, noting that he anticipated continued legal problems from California.

Now that seems like a very safe assumption.

[Image: CC7/Shutterstock]


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24 Comments on “Gas War: Justice Department Drops Antitrust Probe Against Automakers Siding With California...”

  • avatar

    was petty BS from the start.

  • avatar

    Why did Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW need to make a deal with California to adhere to their emissions rules in the first place? If you want to meet those ‘rules’ (which are above and beyond the actual legal rules), fine, go ahead and meet them, fill your boots if you think it gives you an advantage. Why was a deal necessary?

    • 0 avatar

      The deal wasn’t “necessary”, but nor is it binding. The bigger question is why not make “a deal”?

      “Let’s Make a Deal” was more realistic.

      Automakers have nothing to lose, since they don’t actually have to comply and what ever freebies or time extension California negotiates are, or would be totally binding.

    • 0 avatar

      “Why did Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW need to make a deal with California”

      Because they all are students of Trump’s “Art of the Deal”. Deal means Gavin compromised.

    • 0 avatar

      Because they want to sell cars in Kommie Kountry. Wouldn’t be the first time CARB stopped the sale of vehicles for not being compliant.

  • avatar

    Look, either your perspective is “I’m going to parrot the PR departments of a coal/gasoline lobby for free because I’m insecure about my manhood and overall unattractiveness as an employable human DON’T TREAD ON ME” or “Hey the green energy initiatives have resulted in California being home to the only desirable domestic automaker.”

    Point is all you’re doing by doubling down on fossil fuels is giving the Chinese a head-start. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out most domestic automakers lack enough long-term focus and without a goal to work to you’ll have the Big 3 with a thumb up their rear pushing an ancient V6 while Geeley or whoever comes out with the next big hit.

    • 0 avatar

      Secure in my manhood and I don’t desire a Tesla. As for China, nothing they build is of value and If one buys they lack service support as well. As for modern VSixes, peak ICE. News for you oil isn’t fossil fuel.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      “I’m going to parrot the PR departments of a coal/gasoline lobby for free because I’m insecure about my manhood and overall unattractiveness as an employable human DON’T TREAD ON ME” “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out most domestic automakers lack enough long-term focus and without a goal to work to you’ll have the Big 3 with a thumb up their rear pushing an ancient V6 while Geeley or whoever comes out with the next big hit.”

      The automakers for the most part are getting away from V-6s except Ford with their Ecoboost. If anything the car makers are rushing toward direct injection turbo I4s and I3s with CVT transmissions to game the system. As for electric vehicles their lithium batteries are far from green and recharging batteries with many power plants still using coal is not the greenest solution environmentally. Nothing against more electric cars but it is a myth that they are totally green. Unless you drive a full size pickup or suv most of today’s new vehicles are very clean and efficient. The soon to be released electric Mustang and GMs, VWs, Volvo, BMW,and many others have been investing in electric vehicles. Not everyone on this site is a coal roller nor are they a greenie most are just regular beings without any agenda.

    • 0 avatar

      ” pushing an ancient V6 while Geeley or whoever comes out with the next big hit.”

      There already is a trend toward even smaller engines in US vehicles. One of the most absurd pairings is the 2.7T 4-banger in the Silverado and F150.

      CA wants to control the national mandates for emissions but I think they should stick to their own territory. Not everyone wants to emulate CA standards, those who do can; others won’t have to.

      In the past we had the two-emission standards for CA and the rest of the US. No reason why we can’t have that again, even if it means that trading cars between states will be more complicated – i.e. CA-standard cars can be sold elsewhere, but not vice versa.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        So the 2.7 in the Ford is a V6 and I believe the most popular motor in the F150. 20 years ago you had to get a 460 to get the capability in that truck. It has proven via objective sources (not your Australian brothers cousins wife’s friend on some auto forum) to be a reliable power train.

        • 0 avatar

          “2.7T 4-banger in the Silverado”

          and 2.7T V6 in the F150.

          It was the small displacement I wanted to highlight. I should have been more explicit.

          Reliability is great but a number of pickup truck owners still prefer a V8 or even a V10 if it is available.

          I owned a 460 in a 1960 Mercury Montclair sedan and I loved it. Didn’t care about mpg or the price of gas, and still don’t.

          I also owned a V10 in a 1999 F250, and wish I hadn’t sold it. (I sold it because I could not make payroll)

          The little engines (that could) just don’t impress me to where I want to put my money in or on them.

          Give me a V8 like the Tundra 5.7L V8 any day.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s clear buyers have given up on the ideals of buying a new vehicle in 30 year intervals. Or they’re dying off, exiting the market, etc. Or even 20 year intervals as I’ve done or planned for in the past.

          I’m only leasing from now on, which should make automakers happy. Then I don’t mind what ever squirrel engine on acid I’m forced into. I’m still a cheapskate though.

          The new 7.3 Godzilla sounds excellent to me, but it’ll still go into a truck that may not go 10 years without killing your pocketbook, 250 onboard processors soon to be obsoleted, $7K trans rebuilds and whatnot.

          Advantage Automakers.

          • 0 avatar

            I, too, have noticed more (old) people leasing these days although the new leased vehicle is not their only vehicle. The leased vehicle is usually their “traveling and road trip” vehicle.

            Because my wife and I are spending a lot of time traveling these days, we either borrow a vehicle from friends or family, or rent.

            Works great for us. And the $59 Southwest rates are great!

  • avatar

    These silly liberal laws complicate the free market in used cars. They prevent sales of cars that do not meet each state standards so it destroys interstate commerce in used vehicles across the nation.

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    Retaliation? From Donald Trump?!

  • avatar

    Gavin Newsom is a fake Liberal. He should come up with the date to end the sale of ICE vehicles in California. Boris Johnson being conservative outdid him.

    • 0 avatar

      Most CA politicians aren’t liberal. They are Democrats, which in today’s parlance means someone who wants to make decisions for you because they believe they know what’s best for you better than you do. In other words, the opposite of what liberal is.

      Liberalism – A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.

      In other words, it’s the opposite of California Democrats.

  • avatar

    Did Todd off himself?
    Where’s the anti-liberal outrage!?

  • avatar

    What does CA have (left) to lose? They’ve already lost all meaningful automakers, and intent on killing their own economy, but that’s not good enough.

    CA will gladly take all your homeless though.

    Anyway I love seeing corporations abandoning CA in droves. And it’s fun to see all the utilities/infrastructure work going on in CA by amazing big trucks, virtual convoys with Utah plates.

  • avatar

    Our tax dollars hard at work… for nothing.

  • avatar

    I find the Hyundai Kona looks like a furtive little bandit.

    Don’t get the ragging on the SC430 considering the procession of spindle-grilled monstrosities Lexus has chosen to pollute the world with since then. The worst sin was changing the perfectly decent GS into a deformed yucker, followed by the totally amateur redo of the IS line in profile. Today we have the UX crossover whose name tells it all, followed by that pinnacle of the plastic bumper maker’s art, the NX. Yeah, Lexus sucks. Catch that long wheelbase RX 350, now used as an illustration for “ungainly” in long-form dictionaries.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Turbo 3s and 4s with CVTs and E15 could this be a conspiracy to force most of us into electric cars? Make ICE vehicles so unreliable that we all start buying electric vehicles regardless of their range and price.

  • avatar

    I’ll nominate my 2016 Prius. Weird headlight design and whackadoodle rear styling. The 2019’s revisions are big improvements.

  • avatar


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