The Fight Over Fuel Efficiency Won't End With Trump's Announcement Today

Illustration for article titled The Fight Over Fuel Efficiency Won't End With Trump's Announcement Today
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Despite kind of a lot going on at the moment, the Trump administration is pushing ahead with its old plans to overhaul and roll-back Obama-era fuel economy standards. That and more in The Morning Shift for Tuesday, March 31, 2020.


1st Gear: Is Now Really A Good Time?

The Trump administration’s new federal fuel emission standards will be announced later today, predictably rolling back previous standards established by President Obama. The issue is there are a lot of people who don’t want the rules to change—including automakers—and the attempt to change the rules is going to lead to a messy fight for some time to come it would seem.

From Automotive News:

The new rules, which must be finalized by April 1 in order to revise the 2022 model year requirements, is a jump over the initial proposal but will still result in significantly lower overall fleet fuel efficiency, environmentalists said.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler said on Twitter on Monday that the final rule will raise U.S. fleet fuel economy, reduce air pollution and “make new vehicles more affordable.”

California and 22 other U.S. states plan to challenge the rewrite. They previously challenged the Trump administration’s decision to revoke California’s authority to set stiff vehicle tailpipe emissions rules.

Essentially, the new standards are expected to scale back the current rules pushing automakers to achieve a fleet average of an estimated 46.7 MPG by 2026, lowering the required MPG and extending the deadline.

The Trump admin has been pushing this particular plan since 2018, and it’s still not clear who it’s actually helping. Most automakers presently have already made product and powertrain plans to meet the Obama rules, and there’d be no point in investing in changing those plans now. The ongoing uncertainty over the new rules will mean nobody will change what they’re currently doing anyway, at least until our government can settle on one firm set of standards to follow.


It’s almost like it’d just be easier to keep the progressive standards already in place.

2nd Gear: 50,000 Ventilators In 100 Days

Ford and GE Healthcare have partnered to produce some 50,000 much-needed ventilators for health professionals treating patients with severe cases of covid-19.


From Auto News:

The Model A-E ventilators were designed by Airon Corp., a privately held company specializing in high-tech pneumatic life-support products, and licensed by GE. The ventilator uses a simplified design that operates on air pressure, without the need for electricity.

By the week of April 20, it plans to start building the machines at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Mich. Ford, in a release, said it expects to produce 1,500 ventilators by the end of April, 12,000 by the end of May and 50,000 by July 4.

After that, Ford predicts it will be able to build up to 30,000 ventilators a month as needed.


The companies will bring in 500 paid volunteer UAW members to build the equipment.

In other news, Ford has delayed its plans to reopen its North American production facilities again:

The automaker said Tuesday it will indefinitely delay the restart of production at plants in Mexico, Canada and the United States and declined to offer a restart date.

It was previously aiming to begin work at Hermosillo Assembly in Mexico on April 6 and a handful of U.S. plants on April 14. Those dates came after it pushed back original projections of returning to work March 30.


3rd Gear: New NAFTA May Get Delayed

The new United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, also known as USMCA, which was designed to replace NAFTA, may be delayed to avoid adding unnecessary pressure on businesses currently working out how to stay afloat amid the covid-19 economic and social shutdown.


From Reuters:

A bipartisan group of 19 U.S. senators urged the Trump administration to push back the planned June 1 start date for the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact, saying the short lead time would add to pressures on U.S. companies due to the spread of the coronavirus.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the senators, led by Republican Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking Democrat Ron Wyden, said the new trade deal, which replaces the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, should not enter into force until Mexico and Canada are in full compliance with their commitments.

“Even absent the pandemic, a June 1 deadline would be highly aggressive, and raises questions as to whether businesses have the information they need to adjust to the new rules and comply by that date,” the senators wrote. “We ask you to delay the proposed June 1 entry into force and work with Congress and stakeholders to determine a more feasible timeline.”


So with a horrible federal response to a global pandemic, a crashing economy, a battle over fuel efficiency standards pending, and now potentially no USMCA deal to brag about, the Trump administration only has setbacks rolling into the presidential election happening later this year. Will it matter? Probably not.

4th Gear: We’ll Come To You

In a true show of luxury, Volvo has offered to come pick up its customer cars for service rather than force owners to leave the safety of their homes to come to the dealership. From Auto News:

Volvo Valet is a new service that allows customers to schedule pick-up and delivery for vehicles that need service or maintenance. As part of the service, customers receive a loaner while their vehicle is in the shop.

The service is offered by more than 100 of Volvo’s 282 U.S. dealers.

While available now for service appointments, Volvo Valet will be expanded to include lease and purchase deliveries, lease returns, and overnight test drives later this year.

“Volvo Valet gives owners the flexibility to service and maintain their vehicles in a way that works best for them,” Anders Gustafsson, Volvo Car USA CEO, said in a statement.


Of course, Volvo was always planning to offer a service like this. It’s just a really good opportunity to put it into practice right now.

But wait, doesn’t that mean the pickup driver is being put at risk? Yes it does. Are they getting paid hazard pay for it, as it is considered an essential service during the nationwide lockdown? Of course not.


5th Gear: Nobody’s Scootin’

Unsurprisingly, all of those controversial scooter startups now have no customers. From Bloomberg:

Many investors, already skeptical about the viability of the e-scooter business, say the current situation could be the nail in the coffin for an industry beset by financial, safety, and regulatory woes. “I’ve heard a number of people compare the plight of the scooter companies to Uber and Lyft. Like them, scooters are seeing plummeting usage,” says Aaron Michel, a partner at the early-stage venture capital firm 1984 Ventures, which has no investments in the micromobility space. “Unlike Uber and Lyft, though, the verdict was pretty much in on the scooter industry before the virus arrived.” Companies without major backers will go under, he expects, while deeper-pocketed businesses will pare back to bare minimums.


Before we go declaring the end of scooters, it’s probably better to imagine we’ll eventually be allowed to move around outside again without endangering each other with virus. Then we’ll go back to endangering each other with scooters.

Reverse: Hear Me Out


What does the Eiffel Tower opening have to do with cars? Because it was the world’s tallest man-made structure from 1889 to 1930, when it was surpassed by New York City’s Chrysler building. There you go.

Neutral: Do You Even Care About Fuel Efficiency Standards?

If it doesn’t help automakers and it hardly helps oil companies, who will the new efficiency standards actually impact? Do you even care?

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik



I think we’re finally at a place socially where it doesn’t matter that much. Buyers demand higher fuel economy. I think from here forward the real key is that we (buyers) need to know real emissions. What the real tailpipe emissions are. So we do need new testing with real world results, not lab test pretend numbers. Beyond that, I think buyers will quit buying low efficiency vehicles anyway, so having a CAFE standard may not matter.