Jul 25, 2019

Big automakers go around Trump with California emissions deal

Gridlock in Boston. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Four huge automakers — Ford, Honda, VW and BMW — said Thursday that they've struck a voluntary deal with California on vehicle emissions rules that they're hoping will form the basis for a nationwide agreement with the Trump administration.

Why it matters: It signals a break between the companies and the White House as the Trump administration pushes ahead with plans to weaken mileage and emissions standards.

  • The Trump administration is planning to freeze annual emissions standards increases in 2020, rather than letting them grow stricter as envisioned under Obama-era rules.
  • The EPA, as part of that plan, would seek to strip California's special permission under the Clean Air Act to set its own emissions standards that a number of other states follow.

Yes, but: While major automakers had backed efforts to weaken Obama-era rules they call too aggressive, they have also bristled at Trump's push to freeze them outright.

The big picture: According to Reuters, under the deal with California, "the stringency of the requirements would increase at a nationwide average annual rate of 3.7% annually starting in the 2022 model year through 2026, and 1% of that annual improvement could be covered by credits awarded for building electrified vehicles."

What they're saying: "These terms will provide our companies much-needed regulatory certainty by allowing us to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations while continuing to ensure meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions," the four automakers said in a joint statement.

  • They added that the agreement is "available to all automakers."
  • Mary Nichols, California's top air quality official, told the Washington Post that she sees the deal as an "olive branch" to the Trump administration.

Go deeper: How California can meet its aggressive clean energy law

Go deeper

The fuel economy stakes of Big Auto's emissions fight with Trump

Data: Rhodium Group; Chart: Axios Visuals

Automotive emissions standards — essentially a proxy for mileage improvements — would rise under an agreement with California by four big automakers, according to an analysis from The Rhodium Group.

What they found: Under the California deal, the group estimates "that fleetwide average rises to 39 to 41 mpg in 2025, and 42 to 45 mpg by 2030." That would be less than Obama-era standards but still higher than under Trump's plan to freeze mileage rules.

Go deeperArrowAug 22, 2019

Trump gets personal in auto emissions fight

President Trump with GM CEO Mary Barra in 2017. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

A move by at least 4 big automakers to cut a separate deal with California on nationwide emissions standards clearly has President Trump's attention on Twitter.

"Henry Ford would be very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants wanting to build a much more expensive car, that is far less safe and doesn't work as well, because execs don't want to fight California regulators."

Why it matters: The tweets represent an escalation in the battle over one of the most far-reaching Obama-era climate efforts. They come as major automakers are weighing whether to join Ford, Honda, VW and BMW in the pact with California.

Go deeperArrowAug 22, 2019

Big Auto's rupture with Trump

Trump meeting with automaker executives in January 2017. Photo: Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images

Get ready for Mercedes-Benz to join the agreement between California and several big automakers to increase carbon emissions standards — a pact that rebuffs White House plans to freeze the Obama-era CO2 and mileage rules.

The intrigue: Per the Los Angeles Times late Tuesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom confirmed anonymously sourced NYT reporting that Mercedes would join Ford, BMW, Honda and VW in the deal rolled out last month.

Go deeperArrowAug 21, 2019