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Automakers Defy Trump Administration, Striking Fuel-Efficiency Deal with California

Ford Mustangs roll off the production line at the company’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant in 2015. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

In a snub to the Trump administration Thursday, four major auto companies struck a deal with California to produce cars that meet a higher fuel-efficiency standard than the one the administration has proposed.

Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW of North America agreed with the California Air Resources Board to aim to sell cars that can average 50 miles per gallon by 2026, surpassing the Trump administration’s preferred standard of 37 miles per gallon.

The deal gives the four automakers an additional year to reach standards that approach those put in place by the Obama administration, which aimed to produce cars that average 51 miles per gallon by 2025.

California has bucked the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back that stricter fuel-efficiency standard, taking advantage of long-standing permission under the Clean Air Act to implement a more demanding standard. But the chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board said she hopes the new deal will be seen as peace offering to the administration.

“What we have here is a statement of principles intended to reach out to the federal government to move them off the track that they seem to be on and onto a more constructive track,” Chairwoman Mary Nichols said.

“These terms will provide our companies much-needed regulatory certainty by allowing us to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations while continuing to ensure meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” the auto companies said in a joint statement.

The Trump administration is currently preparing to announce one of its most expansive regulatory rollbacks yet, which will include freezing fuel-efficiency standards at 2020 levels until 2026 and disputing California’s ability to set its own standards.

The administration argues that stricter standards hike the price of new cars, incentivizing Americans to continue driving older, less safe vehicles.

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