Mercedes-Benz to join Calif. in fuel economy deal: reports

Source: By Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2019

In a rebuke to President Trump, Mercedes-Benz will join a deal with California to improve the fuel economy of its cars and trucks, according to multiple reports.

Four automakers — Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Volkswagen AG and BMW of North America — inked the deal last month with California after extensive behind-the-scenes negotiations (Greenwire, July 25).

The agreement stands to undercut Trump’s rollback of Obama-era clean car standards, which is slated to take effect this fall.

Citing anonymous sources, The New York Times first reported yesterday that Mercedes-Benz was preparing to join the agreement.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) then confirmed the move to reporters attending a conservation summit at Lake Tahoe, the Los Angeles Times reported late yesterday.

Mercedes-Benz is a German automaker and a subsidiary of Daimler AG, which has a joint venture with BMW on electric vehicles and ride-hailing.

Daimler announced in May that its entire passenger fleet would be carbon-neutral by the end of 2039 (Climatewire, May 13).

While environmentalists initially cheered the announcement, they later questioned whether it would reduce carbon emissions at the scale necessary to address climate change (Climatewire, May 14).

Mercedes-Benz also faced criticism earlier this month for seemingly bragging on Twitter about its cars’ carbon emissions following a European heat wave that scientists say was fueled by climate change (Climatewire, Aug. 6).

Daimler declined to comment on behalf of Mercedes-Benz. “Our response is that Daimler does not comment on speculation,” spokesman Han Tjan said in an email.

Trump took to Twitter this morning to blast the news reports about automakers subverting his rollback.

“My proposal to the politically correct Automobile Companies would lower the average price of a car to consumers by more than $3000, while at the same time making the cars substantially safer,” the president tweeted.

“Engines would run smoother. Very little impact on the environment! Foolish executives!”

Trump’s claim that the rollback would have “very little impact on the environment” is at odds with his own administration’s analysis.

In fact, the Trump administration acknowledged in its own environmental impact statement last year that the rollback would increase so-called criteria pollutants — carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide (E&E News PM, Aug. 3, 2018).

An analysis by the Rhodium Group, an economic consulting firm, also found that the rollback would increase carbon dioxide emissions by 321 million to 931 million metric tons.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune blasted Trump’s tweet.

“There’s not a single thing that is true in Donald Trump’s tweet,” Brune said in a statement. “Trump’s rollback is unraveling from every corner, but rather than listening to nearly every single sector of society — consumer advocates, environmentalists and even the auto industry — he’s spreading lies on Twitter.”

It’s unclear whether other automakers will join the California deal.

Asked for comment, GM spokesman Darri’n Hardy said in an email, “We are driving toward a future of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion. As we have stated, the pathway includes continuously improving fuel economy and our commitment to an all-electric future. Our focus remains on working with all parties on a solution that would involve a 50-state solution and a national electric vehicle program.”

Fiat Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne also kept his cards close.

“FCA US is committed to continuing the improvement of our fleet fuel economy,” he said. “We have been clear throughout the federal rulemaking process that the current standards need to be adjusted to reflect changing conditions in the marketplace. This discussion acknowledges that is true.”