Car Industry Splits Over California Emissions Rules. What Side Is Your Car Maker On?

CC BY 2.0. Our Subaru in the woods/ Lloyd Alter

I was disappointed to see that Subaru, beloved of TreeHugger types, is on the wrong side of this issue.

Last year, when the Trump Administration started its rollback of the fuel economy standards, a group called the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers was there cheering. A called them the Auto Alliance of Evil, with their report that "cherry-picks lines from studies to undermine the scientific consensus linking the burning of fossil fuels with more extreme droughts and floods, hurricanes, ocean acidification, and wildfires."

A few manufacturers were missing from its membership, notably Honda, Nissan and Subaru. I was relieved by this; our family has had Subarus for twenty years. They make a very big deal about their environmental credibility and are very popular with the outdoorsy TreeHugger types.

But now there is another fight going on over California's right to set its own standards, a waiver that they have had for decades.

After the rollback of the standards, California said it would stick with the previous, stricter rules. BMW, Volkswagen, Ford and Honda made a deal with California to follow the original Obama-era rules. But now a different group, the Association of Global Automakers, is supporting President Trump. They say, "Throughout the rule-making process, Global Automakers has called for a unified national standard that continues the industry’s significant progress in improving motor vehicle fuel economy, and that rewards investments in next-generation fuel-savings technologies." In other words, no separate rules for California and we will worry about this later.

According to Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times,

Breaking with some of their biggest rivals, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota said Monday they were intervening on the side of the Trump administration in an escalating battle with California over fuel economy standards for automobiles. Their decision pits them against leading competitors, including Honda and Ford, who this year reached a deal to follow California’s stricter rules.

Toyota, maker of the Prius and the Mirai, who used to be the poster child for green car making, has consistently sided with the polluters. Honda is a member but is upset by this move by the Association, telling the Times:

“Honda is not a participant in this litigation,” said Marcos Frommer, a Honda spokesman, “and is not contributing any funds supporting our trade association’s activity in this area.” Honda has already locked in vehicle greenhouse gas standards through model year 2026 based on the stricter standards agreed on with California, Mr. Frommer said.

Now I don't like kale, but I did love my Subaru. It is a member of the Association of Global Automakers.

Subaru is green

Really? Subaru is green?/Screen capture

They have a big website devoted to environmental issues, to waste, to how to travel light and leave no trace. No mention of tailpipe emissions anywhere. So many photos of forests, and not one of them is on fire. I wrote to their media department for comment and, at time of this writing, have not received a response.

When you look at the comments on the New York Times, there are a whole lot of people saying that they are not ever buying these cars again. "I won't be buying a GM, Fiat Chrysler, or Toyota. It's repugnant that these auto companies are delaying overdue steps to reduce tailpipe emissions and reduce climate change impacts." Or "I'm not sure who was doing the thinking at these companies. As there are millions of Americans who are concerned about pollution and climate change, when it comes time to buy a new car it will be easy to switch from Toyota to Honda. Of if you want to buy American to switch from GM to Ford or Tesla."

Subaru types in forests

Subaru types in forests/Screen capture

My Impreza is only three years old and I am not buying another car for a very long time, but I won't look at it the same way, knowing that it's sold by hypocrites who will fill their site with photos of happy campers frolicking in forests while the forests burn and while they support rolling back emissions and screwing California. I really don't know what they are thinking.

Car buyers now have a choice: They can support emissions reductions by going with the California group, BMW, Volkswagen, Ford and Honda, or they can go with the members of the Association of Global Automakers which include Ferrari, McLaren, Maserati, Aston Martin, all climate killers in a league of their own, along with Nissan, Subaru, Kia, Suzuki and Hyundai.