By on September 18, 2019

While a considerable portion of Donald Trump’s Twitter announcements aren’t worth paying much attention to, he does occasionally slip some actual information in there. This week, the nugget was the confirmation that his administration intends to revoke California’s federal waiver on emissions — stripping the state of its ability to self-regulate and readying America for the gas war’s main event.

The Environmental Protection Agency was already known to be making preparations to do exactly this, but the president’s Wednesday posting made things crystal clear. “The Trump Administration is revoking California’s Federal Waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER,” he wrote.  (Find Out…)

By on September 10, 2019

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler weighed in on the gas war this week, issuing some firm language on the matter during a visit to Chattanooga, Tennessee. His words were softer upon returning to Washington, where he reminded everyone that the EPA has made no formal decisions on the matter and suggested there could still be room for compromise.

Unfortunately, locating that happy middle ground has been a bit of a problem. Despite the fuel economy rollback’s status as a proposal, hard lines have been drawn in the sand between the Trump administration and California’s regulatory bodies. The Golden State’s compromise was to delay the Obama-era targets by one year. California also recruited municipalities, U.S. states, and automotive manufacturers to pledge their support of the plan, resulting in a handful of carmakers finding themselves on the business end of an antitrust probe.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s compromise has been nonexistent. Wheeler’s words suggest that might be because everyone is still making up their minds… but not before he gently razzed the West Coast for being shortsighted an singleminded.  (Find Out…)

By on September 6, 2019

The Justice Department has opened an antitrust probe into four automakers that formed a pact with California to compromise on tailpipe emissions, effectively circumventing federal regulators, last July.

Over the summer, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., BMW AG and Volkswagen Group announced a joint agreement with the California Air Resources Board to adhere to fueling standards slightly lower than Obama-era rules but still significantly higher than the Trump administration’s proposal from 2018. The Justice Department is seeking to determine whether or not that qualifies as a violation of federal competition laws. (Find Out…)

By on August 29, 2019

Barring the development of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the slow march towards better fuel economy, especially in larger vehicles, has been just that: slow. Yet incremental improvements continue, and the latest large family vehicle to see a darker shade of green is Ford’s new-for-2020 Explorer.

Now bearing rear-drive architecture it shares with the Lincoln Aviator, the Explorer drives into its sixth generation with a hybrid and high-performance model in tow. The greenest of the bunch, unlike the Aviator, is not a plug-in proposition, so fuel economy gains are limited. It’s up to buyers to decide if the just-released EPA numbers are worth the extra coin. (Find Out…)

By on August 28, 2019

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

There’s a Consumer Reports study making the rounds that reveals owners of trucks and large SUVs wish for better performance at the pump. Please pick yourself up off the ground. In fact, 73 percent of surveyed drivers who own such a vehicle wish for more MPGs in their next vehicle, which is not surprising given that large vehicles return, on average, below-average fuel economy.

Interestingly, the Detroit Three find themselves in the midst of an MPG war with their full-size, light-duty diesels. Mild hybrid Ram 1500s are here, and Ford has a hybrid F-150 in the works. Both Ford and GM have fully electric full-sizers in development. The General just introduced a four-cylinder half-ton (with an admittedly lackluster EPA rating).

While it’s understandable that owners of large vehicles would wish for lower fuel costs, the study fails to ask why owners want an improvement in their gas bill.  (Find Out…)

By on August 27, 2019

Ford has executed an on-then-off strategy with regard to its Fiesta offering in the North American market. Currently in off mode, your local Ford dealer encourages you to look at the sporty and capable first-ever third-world offering EcoSport instead.

But today we’re stepping back in time to 1978 to take a look at the genesis of Fiesta. The Fiestasis, if you will.

(Find Out…)

By on August 21, 2019

According to recent reports, there’s trouble with the White House’s fuel economy rollback. The Trump administration is said to have been meeting with automakers, asking them to stand behind its proposal to freeze economy standards at about 37 mpg until 2026. The New York Times indicates it was an act of desperation, spurred by claims that Mercedes-Benz was on the cusp of supporting the California compromise. Based on existing standards, which would raise the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, the deal would delay its targets by one year.

Honda, Ford, Volkswagen, and BMW previously agreed to support California’s proposal in July. However, the deal is non-binding if the White House decides to push through a rollback, and most of the rhetoric being used by the industry seems more focused on a joint standard.

“A 50-state solution has always been our preferred path forward and we understand that any deal involves compromise,” read the automakers’ joint statement.”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.”  (Find Out…)

By on August 7, 2019

The fuel economy rollback posited by the Trump administration remains a hotly debated issue within the automotive community. Unfortunately, it has become mired in political nonsense, making decrypting the real-world impact of embracing or shunning it rather difficult. Consumer Reports recently took a stab at making sense of the matter, coming out in favor of balking at the notion of a rollback on the grounds that it would ultimately raise fueling costs.

Last year, the administration proposed capping fuel economy and emission standards at 2020 levels, instead of allowing them to rise annually as under existing regulations. The opposition, fronted by California, is vying to maintain the existing standards — with the possible compromise of delaying them by one year.  (Find Out…)

By on July 25, 2019

While we’ve dinged the media for erroneously reporting that automakers were unilaterally “backing” California in the fuel-economy fracas that’s currently taking place within American politics, it appears four of them actually are starting to choose a side. However, this again requires a bunch of clarification. Despite not adhering fully to the state’s ideal emissions scenario, Ford Motor Co., BMW Group, Volkswagen Group, and Honda Motor Co. released a joint announcement stating they have reached a voluntary agreement with the state of California to adopt compromised vehicle emissions rules.

Since there’s nothing binding in the joint agreement and automakers make (and break) promises all the time, the deal is largely meaningless. Doubly so, since the fuel-economy rollbacks have yet to be finalized. But this does illustrate how a handful of manufacturers are willing to accommodate others in order to get a nationwide solution. It also shows a softening of California’s previously ironclad environmental stance, which is much more interesting.  (Find Out…)

By on July 23, 2019

Ford badge emblem logo

As if preordained to coincide with Ford’s announcement of its electric F-Series prototype, news of a class-action lawsuit accusing the automaker of falsified fuel economy tests surfaced last night. The suit, filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by Seattle law firm Hagens Berman, asks $1.2 billion in damages for customers it claims are overspending on fuel.

The legal action piggybacks on the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of Ford’s testing procedures for the 2019 Ford Ranger in April. However, the civil suit also ropes in the F-Series — claiming that customers could spend upwards of two grand in gas they never budgeted for.  (Find Out…)

By on July 9, 2019

On Tuesday, 23 governors signed a joint statement urging the Trump administration to reconsider the proposed rollback of Obama-era fueling regulations. Led, unsurprisingly, by California Governor Gavin Newsom, the letter suggests a “common-sense approach” to national requirements with an emphasis on rising standards.

A minor update in the gas war to be certain — and yet annoyingly framed by a large portion of the media as a victory for California when the realities are far more complicated. To be frank, we’re getting pretty tired of these lopsided takes. This whole thing is a regulatory and political quagmire… on all sides.  (Find Out…)

By on June 28, 2019

A recent study from consulting firm AlixPartners has suggested that automakers could be in for a financial ass kicking of epic proportions. As it turns out, reaching emission quotas is a difficult business and the European Union wants 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer by 2021. The study suggests few automakers are on track to reach that goal and, as a result, will be forced to pay out sizable fines. We’re talking billions.

Can you guess which manufacturers are supposed to get hit the hardest?

Here’s a hint: we’ve discussed one of them having similar issues in the United States earlier this year and both of their names are in the title of this article.  (Find Out…)

By on June 26, 2019

Canada’s federal government announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding with California to further reduce vehicle emissions. It would appear that the United States’ neighbor to the north has chosen a side in the gas war — at least spiritually.

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, along with California Governor Gavin Newsom, announced the agreement’s signing on Wednesday.

“As the world’s fifth-largest economy and a global leader in clean transportation, California is a leading example of how climate action can be good for people, the environment and the economy,” McKenna said. “We look forward to working with California to fight climate change, keep the air clean and give drivers better options for cleaner, more affordable vehicles.” (Find Out…)

By on June 21, 2019

us-capitol, public domain

Capitol Hill was the scene of some high-school drama this week after representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) reportedly refused to sit at the same table while discussing fueling regulations with the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

As petty as this seems, it illustrates the overall situation rather well. White House officials terminated talks with California in February, citing an inability to progress the debate. Meanwhile, CARB has been claiming the Trump administration doesn’t want to hear its case and has instead sought to strip the state of its ability to self regulate in order to pass reforms that would freeze national emissions standards at 2020 levels though 2026.

Thursday’s congressional bickering helped paint a clearer picture of what the communications breakdown looked like.  (Find Out…)

By on June 20, 2019

The United Auto Workers is spending Thursday telling Congress that the union opposes the Trump administration’s proposal to freeze fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels through 2026… sort of. While the UAW expressed moderate environmental concerns in the past, most of its opposition to the rollback has revolved around corporate investments into the industry. In fact, the union’s research arm called fuel economy the auto industry’s “future” in 2018.

This time around, the UAW seems to be singularly focused on business aspects. According to a prewritten testimony, UAW Legislative Director Josh Nassar intends to tell two subcommittees of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee that the union is in line with automakers’ concerns about the proposal leading to “protracted litigation and uncertainty in the industry that will limit growth.” (Find Out…)

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