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Trump officials likely to back off automotive regulations freeze

President Trump
Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The Trump administration will likely endorse modest increases in vehicle mileage and emissions standards when it completes rules to weaken Obama-era mandates, multiple sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: The move, depending on the details, will likely force automakers into tough decisions about whether to endorse it.

  • The industry's position is that there should be annual increases, rather than no gains through the mid-2020s.
  • EPA and the Transportation Department had initially proposed freezing the Obama administration's planned increases in 2020.

What they're saying: "[B]ased on other conversations with the administration and others ... it seems likely that the final rule will require some year-over-year efficiency improvements," said a source familiar with the administration's thinking.

Where it stands: Big players are already going their own way. 4 automakers — Ford, VW, Honda and BMW — struck a deal with California in July that they say amounts to 3.7% annual efficiency gains in model years 2022–2026.

  • It's very unlikely that the Trump administration will go nearly that far, given that the deal with California is in the ballpark of the Obama-era standards (although somewhat weaker).

Flashback: EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has hinted at the prospect of backing off the freeze. On Sept. 19 he said the final rule "will not look exactly the same way that we proposed it.”

  • An EPA spokesperson declined comment.

Go deeper: EPA to roll back California's power to enforce strict auto emissions standards