Major automakers and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have reached an agreement to increase fleet fuel efficiencies to nearly 50 miles per gallon on average by 2026. The companies--Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW of North America—along with California regulators took matters into their own hands, after the Trump administration planned to freeze the standard at the 2020 level.
The companies—willing and able to achieve higher fuel efficiencies—had grown weary of the administration’s unwillingness to negotiate with California in good faith and worried legal challenges to the final federal rule would keep the auto market roiled for two to four more years.
The deal reached between California and the four auto companies is truly extraordinary both in terms of why the deal came about and what it means for the Trump administration. Since Day 1 of the Trump presidency, the auto industry had been hoping to re-negotiate the deal it struck with the Obama administration on auto and light truck fuel efficiency standards (CAFE) for the period 2021 through 2026.
Over the past two and a half years of the Trump administration, the auto industry has learned the meaning of the phrase be careful what you wish for; as it just might come true. The bad news came to industry representatives in late February on a conference call with the White House. They were told that the Administration had cut-off any further conversations with California officials and was going ahead with its proposed Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule that freezing the standards at 2020 levels.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MA, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.