By on September 6, 2019

The Justice Department has opened an antitrust probe into four automakers that formed a pact with California to compromise on tailpipe emissions, effectively circumventing federal regulators, last July.

Over the summer, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., BMW AG and Volkswagen Group announced a joint agreement with the California Air Resources Board to adhere to fueling standards slightly lower than Obama-era rules but still significantly higher than the Trump administration’s proposal from 2018. The Justice Department is seeking to determine whether or not that qualifies as a violation of federal competition laws. (Read More…)

By on July 25, 2019

While we’ve dinged the media for erroneously reporting that automakers were unilaterally “backing” California in the fuel-economy fracas that’s currently taking place within American politics, it appears four of them actually are starting to choose a side. However, this again requires a bunch of clarification. Despite not adhering fully to the state’s ideal emissions scenario, Ford Motor Co., BMW Group, Volkswagen Group, and Honda Motor Co. released a joint announcement stating they have reached a voluntary agreement with the state of California to adopt compromised vehicle emissions rules.

Since there’s nothing binding in the joint agreement and automakers make (and break) promises all the time, the deal is largely meaningless. Doubly so, since the fuel-economy rollbacks have yet to be finalized. But this does illustrate how a handful of manufacturers are willing to accommodate others in order to get a nationwide solution. It also shows a softening of California’s previously ironclad environmental stance, which is much more interesting.  (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2019

A recent study from consulting firm AlixPartners has suggested that automakers could be in for a financial ass kicking of epic proportions. As it turns out, reaching emission quotas is a difficult business and the European Union wants 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer by 2021. The study suggests few automakers are on track to reach that goal and, as a result, will be forced to pay out sizable fines. We’re talking billions.

Can you guess which manufacturers are supposed to get hit the hardest?

Here’s a hint: we’ve discussed one of them having similar issues in the United States earlier this year and both of their names are in the title of this article.  (Read More…)

By on June 26, 2019

Canada’s federal government announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding with California to further reduce vehicle emissions. It would appear that the United States’ neighbor to the north has chosen a side in the gas war — at least spiritually.

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, along with California Governor Gavin Newsom, announced the agreement’s signing on Wednesday.

“As the world’s fifth-largest economy and a global leader in clean transportation, California is a leading example of how climate action can be good for people, the environment and the economy,” McKenna said. “We look forward to working with California to fight climate change, keep the air clean and give drivers better options for cleaner, more affordable vehicles.” (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2019

us-capitol, public domain

Capitol Hill was the scene of some high-school drama this week after representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) reportedly refused to sit at the same table while discussing fueling regulations with the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

As petty as this seems, it illustrates the overall situation rather well. White House officials terminated talks with California in February, citing an inability to progress the debate. Meanwhile, CARB has been claiming the Trump administration doesn’t want to hear its case and has instead sought to strip the state of its ability to self regulate in order to pass reforms that would freeze national emissions standards at 2020 levels though 2026.

Thursday’s congressional bickering helped paint a clearer picture of what the communications breakdown looked like.  (Read More…)

By on June 20, 2019

The United Auto Workers is spending Thursday telling Congress that the union opposes the Trump administration’s proposal to freeze fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels through 2026… sort of. While the UAW expressed moderate environmental concerns in the past, most of its opposition to the rollback has revolved around corporate investments into the industry. In fact, the union’s research arm called fuel economy the auto industry’s “future” in 2018.

This time around, the UAW seems to be singularly focused on business aspects. According to a prewritten testimony, UAW Legislative Director Josh Nassar intends to tell two subcommittees of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee that the union is in line with automakers’ concerns about the proposal leading to “protracted litigation and uncertainty in the industry that will limit growth.” (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2019

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee said it will schedule a hearing on June 20th regarding the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back automotive efficiency standards. The decision comes from Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Environment and Climate Change Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) — all of whom are in clear opposition to the suggested plan.

The groups will hold a joint hearing to discuss Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and carbon pollution regulations affecting light duty vehicles as they relate to the current administration’s plan to effectively freeze efficiency targets between 2020 to 2026.  (Read More…)

By on June 7, 2019

The automotive industry is in turmoil. There’s an industrywide push toward electrification that has yet to prove itself as truly profitable, volume seems to be tapering off in the developed world, and emissions regulations aimed at improving air quality are operating counter to existing consumer tastes. As a result, automakers are scrambling to find the best path forward.

In 2017, that path involved encouraging the new U.S. president to roll back Obama-era fuel economy mandates, thus providing some breathing room and staving off fines as automakers began to realize they wouldn’t be able to meet tightening targets. The administration listened, leading to a proposal that would effectively freeze mileage standards at about 37 miles per gallon — rather than the previously decided 54.5 mpg — by 2025.

However, California and a coalition of supportive states claim they won’t be going along for the ride. This group says it will maintain the old standards, regardless of what the White House says. The staredown has automakers worried; they’ve now banded together to issue a letter asking both sides to calm down and keep talking.  (Read More…)

By on March 7, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency released its annual assessment of new vehicles yesterday, and it was filled with good news. On average, fuel economy continues to improve. Cars are not getting heavier, horsepower keeps going up, and every major manufacturer managed was in compliance with greenhouse gas standards through the 2017 model year. However, the EPA also said it’s concerned that manufacturers frequently tap into stored-up regulatory credits to make this possible.

“Most large manufacturers used banked credits, along with technology improvements, to maintain compliance in model year 2017. Three large manufacturers achieved compliance based on the emission performance of their vehicles, without utilizing additional banked credits,” the agency explained.

The ability to bank credits by over-complying in a given year is seen by some environmental groups as a way for corporations to shirk their responsibility to the planet. But EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s concerns regarding the system rest elsewhere.  (Read More…)

By on March 6, 2019

The Trump administration has long been at odds with California and a coalition of supportive states that hope to block the rollback of Obama-era fueling regulations the current Environmental Protection Agency deems “unsustainable.” The EPA also says it’s inconsistent with consumer behavior. But automakers have behaved somewhat erratically on the matter, forcing the president to request (by proxy) that they make up their minds and pick a side before a final decision is made.

While industry leaders previously backed the more stringent regulatory framework set in place by the former president, they quickly converged on Washington after Trump assumed office in 2017, requesting a softening of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. After blowback from California and environmental activists, automakers took a more measured approach, publicly stating that they support green initiatives and reducing their own carbon footprint — and suggesting that a national deal be reached that pleases all parties.

Fence-sitting time might be over.
(Read More…)

By on July 25, 2018

fuel gauge vintage

Andrew Wheeler, the acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the United States needs a single standard for fuel efficiency for cars and trucks on Tuesday. It’s a sentiment shared by Mary Nichols, head of California Air Resources Board, but it’s likely to put the two at odds. Wheeler said the pair shared that singular goal based off a meeting held last week, but California isn’t seeking the same benchmarks as the current administration.

The state objects to the EPA’s plan to weaken Obama-era efficiency targets, and is currently in the midst of a political and legal battle with the agency. However, Wheeler confirmed that, under his watch, the group would continue seeking a “50-state solution.”  (Read More…)

By on March 16, 2017

Donald Trump

Donald Trump said Wednesday his administration will reopen a review of the current auto emissions directives passed in the final throes of the Obama presidency. This is cause for celebration for automakers, who’ve practically begged the president to repeal the mandates on grounds that the goals are far too uncompromising and ill-suited for the present-day market.

Speaking at the American Center for Mobility, President Trump promised to bring more manufacturing back into the United States and continue to bring down regulatory barriers so that automakers can continue to thrive.

“We’re going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again,” Trump said. “There is no more beautiful sight than an American-made car.”

Clearly, the president has either never seen an Aston Martin or is trying to make a point about the importance of domestic product.  (Read More…)

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