Going behind the president's back to make a deal with California is not how you get on his good side.
The back-and-forth battle between automakers and the Trump administration has most recently gotten to the point that car companies have started begging the president for stricter fuel efficiency standards, even after they first asked him to roll them back. The reason? At first, pulling back fuel economy standards seemed like a good way to save money since it would allow companies to forgo investing in greener automotive technologies.
But when California and a number of other states said that an EPA rule rollback would cause them to install their own standards, threatening to split the US auto market in two and raise costs for automakers, companies started lobbying to put the old national rules back. In attempts to make a makeshift deal, four separate automakers have signed a deal with California to ensure they would only have to adhere to (and therefore engineer cars for) one set of standards, reports Reuters.
Ford, BMW, Honda, and Volkswagen are the four companies that have reached an agreement with California on a single set of fuel economy regulations, completely bypassing the Trump administration, which is trying to strip the state of its right to set its own fuel efficiency and emissions standards. Given that the legal battle would likely be lengthy and messy and could make it so automakers have to bear the cost of designing vehicles for two separate markets, the American, Japanese, and two German automakers have essentially agreed to stick with a more strict set of regulations (which would likely clear the Trump rules by default) and keep costs in line with current figures.
While this seems like a win for California, the agreement has left parties on both sides unhappy. The Trump administration's EPA believes that the agreement is, "a PR stunt that does nothing to ... provide certainty and relief for American consumers," claims the agency's spokesman, Michael Abboud.
On the other hand, environmental groups aren't happy that the rules are less strict than Obama era regulations, which called for an average fleet fuel economy of 46.7 mpg by 2025, even if they are more strict than the Trump standards, which require a fleet average of 37 mpg by 2025. On top of that, the fact the agreement is non-legally-binding is also a loss in the eyes of environmentalists.
Despite the controversy, the agreement is so far the closest thing we have to a single unifying deal for the entire country, which is the outcome automakers want most.