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GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Fiat Side With Trump in Fuel Efficiency War Against California

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Brand new cars sit in a lot at the Auto Warehousing Company near the Port of Richmond on May 24, 2018 in Richmond, California. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The fight between the Trump administration and the state of California over fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks has now turned into an auto-industry civil war.


In July, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW of North America negotiated a deal with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to meet stricter emissions standards preferred by the state.

Now, major automakers including General Motors, Kia and Toyota are throwing their weight behind the Trump administration in the legal battle over whether or not California can set its own standards under the Clean Air Act, The Hill reported Monday.

The automakers, joining under the banner of the Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation, filed their motion on behalf of the administration Monday. They are supporting the administration against California and 22 other states who sued in September to stop the federal government from revoking California's waiver to set its own tailpipe emissions standards.

"Historically, the industry has taken the position that federal government is the sole purview of fuel economy," John Bozzella, president and CEO of industry group Global Automakers and coalition spokesperson, said, as The Hill reported.

California leaders responded with anger to the automakers' decision. State Senator Scott Wiener noted that the announcement came as the state was battling massive wildfires.

"Toyota, GM & Chrysler have great timing: moving to overturn California's auto emission standards as our state burns due to climate change & the irresponsible policies that fuel it," he tweeted. "Let's remember this selfish corporate betrayal."

CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols also spoke out against the car companies.

"We are disappointed in the Association of Global Automakers for hiding behind the Trump administration's skirts and its assault on public health," she told The New York Times.

The companies siding with the administration also include Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Hyundai and Fiat Chrysler, according to Reuters.

At the heart of the battle are fuel efficiency standards proposed by the Obama administration that would have required automakers build vehicles with an average fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, The New York Times explained. This would have prevented around six billion tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Automakers initially asked the Trump administration to weaken standards, but it pushed them so low that California and several other states said they would continue to enforce higher standards, potentially splitting the U.S. car market. This is the context in which the four car companies made a deal with California to promise a slightly less ambitious target of 51 miles per gallon by 2026.

Honda, one of the car companies involved with that deal, distanced itself from Monday's legal action.

"Honda is not a participant in this litigation," spokesperson Marcos Frommer told The New York Times, "and is not contributing any funds supporting our trade association's activity in this area."

Bozzella insisted that the car makers were not joining the lawsuit to influence what the national fuel efficiency standard should be. They simply wanted to ensure it would be one national standard. He said the administration had not asked the car companies to join the lawsuit.

"The decision to intervene in the lawsuit is about how the standard should be applied, not what the standard should be," he said, as Reuters reported.

The car companies' action follows a move by seven states to join the lawsuit on the administration's side on Friday.

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