Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW signed a voluntary agreement in early August with the California Air Resources Board that gives automakers a little more time and a little more flexibility to achieve the tougher standards that were set under the Obama administration for the 2025 model year.
In the Feinstein letter, the senators urged Aston Martin, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Toyota and Volvo to join the compromise framework. As of last week, none have taken up the senators on their request, but industry groups and automakers have said they want a 50-state solution of some kind.
The Trump administration has rejected the California deal with the four automakers and wants to strip the state of its ability to set its emissions standards, which have been adopted by a dozen other states.
So, California and Washington remain on a collision course, with the automakers stuck in between.
One of the main arguments made by the regulators at the EPA and NHTSA is that the Obama rules would make vehicles more expensive and therefore make it more difficult for owners of older vehicles to upgrade to newer, safer ones.
But Consumer Reports released an analysis last week that contradicted the regulators’ theory. Rather than saving money for consumers, the fuel-standards rollback will cost them money at the pump because their vehicles — on average — would be significantly less efficient. Consumer Reports puts the cost of the rollback at $3,300 per vehicle over its lifetime.
Additionally: “The rollback would hurt the auto industry, decreasing sales by more than 2 million vehicles between [model year] 2021 and 2035.” And: “The rollback would not improve auto safety and could have a small negative impact.”
In addition to rolling back corporate average fuel economy standards, the Trump administration wants to lower penalties for not meeting them. The Obama administration had more than doubled the fines to keep up with years of inflation, but NHTSA set a final rule last month rolling them back.
As part of the back-and-forth, California and a dozen other states said last week they are suing the regulator to get the old CAFE penalties reinstated. Automakers had argued, and the government agreed, that the increased fines would cause them significant economic harm. NHTSA said last week it would defend the rollback of the penalties.
Reuters contributed to this report.