Relations are strained between the Trump administration and the Golden State, which, by derogation, has its own incentive system for the purchase of clean vehicles.

It is an astonishing quarrel which is played around clean car and whose California constitutes the backdrop. She sees President Donald Trump and his administration clash with a group of manufacturers – including General Motors (GM), Fiat-Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai-Kia – on the one hand, and the State of California associated with a quartet of rival manufacturers – Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, Honda – on the other hand.

Since the 1970s, under a federal exemption, California has had its own incentive system for the development of clean vehicles and regulation of emissions of polluting gases or contributing to global warming.

Under the aegis of the all-powerful California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Golden State has the right to have its regulation independent of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) . And other states can, if they wish, follow the recommendations of the Californian CARB rather than those of the EPA. In this case, thirteen, mainly on the East Coast, made this choice.

California has imposed on any manufacturer who wants to be registered there to produce electric or electrified vehicles. Thus, Fiat-Chrysler manufactures, solely for the purpose of being present in the State, an electric Fiat 500 absolutely unprofitable. The Golden State also has its own gasoline taxes and more stringent vehicle consumption reduction targets than those of the EPA.

End the California exception

However, President Trump has decided to attack this privilege, declaring that there should be only one standard for the whole country. He claimed that the Californian mechanism was elitist, driving up the price of vehicles, and that with lower standards, they could be made more affordable and therefore put more (slightly) cleaner cars on the roads. , all being at the same time good for “employment, employment, employment”, he insisted in a tweet.

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In September, the White House tenant therefore asked the EPA to end the California exception, which triggered a legal response from the state and its allies against the administration in place. Mr. Trump received the support of a majority of manufacturers (Toyota, GM, Fiat-Chrysler, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan-Mitsubishi, Mazda, Suzuki, Ferrari, McLaren), who declared themselves in favor of a single standard.

The CARB believed, however, that it had taken a decisive step in its duel with the federal administration, by announcing that it had signed, in mid-July, an agreement with Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW, these four manufacturers committing to favor standards California rather than those enacted by the federal state. California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom said he was “very confident” that other builders would join the Golden State. The opposite has happened.