Automakers Won’t Stop Chasing Fuel Economy, Regardless Of CAFE Standards

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Global automakers like Ford aren’t likely to abandon their pursuit of improved vehicle fuel efficiency, regardless of whether existing US federal fuel economy regulations remain in place under President Donald Trump.

Last week, Trump announced that the Environmental Protection Agency would reopen its review of the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards put in place under President Obama, concerning many who fear that the door will thus be open to relaxing the standards and undermining efforts to curb carbon emissions. While that is a possibility, there are at least three other lines of defense: foreign markets, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and the billions automakers have already invested into green tech.

According to the Detroit Free Press, auto executives at the Fuel Economy Detroit conference last Thursday said that countries outside the US are increasing their own fuel-economy regulations, even while the US’ standards remain in the balance. Therefore, whether or not the US rolls back the Obama-era CAFE standards, global automakers will nevertheless be forced to chase ever-greater efficiency in order to do business in those other markets.

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“We’re all global companies,” said Hyundai-Kia Powertrain Director John Juriga. “We have to design our vehicles to be fuel efficient not only in the U.S., but in Europe and Asia.” For instance, Europe, China, and Japan all have their own average fleet-wide fuel-economy standards set to go into effect in 2020, of 47 mpg or higher, says the Free Press.

On top of that, California is permitted to issue its own fuel-economy standards, which would apply to all CARB member states (more than a dozen in total), although those could be overturned by the EPA. And finally, automakers themselves have already invested heavily on fuel-efficient technologies to meet the federal government’s strict demands, making abandoning the pursuit of greener motoring unlikely.

Granted, there could still be some negative impact on corporate average fuel economy should the EPA relax its standards; Juriga says that some automakers could delay the roll-out of certain efficient vehicles in some markets if demand is low. But regardless of how the EPA acts, the trend toward higher miles-per-gallon in new vehicles is not likely to reverse.

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Written by Aaron Brzozowski

Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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