Off-shoring Opposition To Vehicle Fuel Economy: Toyota Stalls Mexican Standards

November 2, 2012 | 10:44 am
Don Anair
Deputy Director & Research Director, Clean Transportation

What’s the bestselling car in California? For the first 9 months of 2012, it was Toyota’s family of Prius hybrids. One might assume that a car company with such a successful vehicle efficiency technology — a technology they recently announced will be in as many as 21 models by 2015 — wouldn’t stand in the way of  making more efficient vehicles available to millions of car buyers in Mexico.  Well think again.

Toyota and other members of the Mexican auto industry are suing to block fuel economy and global warming emissions standards that would essentially align with U.S. standards through model year 2016.

Toyota and the auto industry are back to their old tricks

Tell Toyota: Earn Your Clean Car Reputation!

Send a message to Toyota and tell them to drop their lawsuit and support Mexico’s fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards.

This would not be the first time green-haloed Toyota has tried to stall progress on policies that improve vehicle efficiency or greenhouse gas emissions. In 2007, UCS called out Toyota for talking out of both sides of their mouth, stating their support for fuel economy improvements, while trying to undermine legislation that would deliver just that. And within the last decade, as part of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, they also sued to block California from implementing vehicle greenhouse gas standards adopted in 2004.

Stalling progress on fuel economy is bad for business

After decades of fighting progress on fuel economy standards, automakers finally relented in the wake of the 2008 gas price spikes and the ensuing economic collapse. It appeared that a valuable lesson was learned. The failure to improve the efficiency of their vehicle fleets left automakers scrambling to provide cars people wanted and in the fray some automakers barely survived.

In the wake of the industry upheaval, new standards were proposed and automakers finally put their lawyers on the bench and brought in their engineers, agreeing to new standards that will drive innovation in the auto industry and protect consumers at the gas pump.

Toyota crying wolf

As part of Toyota’s opposition, they are claiming the Mexican standards are not as flexible as the U.S. standards. But Toyota appears to be crying wolf. The International Council on Clean Transportation evaluated Mexico’s proposed standards last July when they were made available for a 60-day public comment period. The ICCT’s description of the standards shows they are closely aligned with the 2012-2016 U.S. vehicle standards, and that in 2011 Mexico’s new vehicle fleet is already more efficient than the U.S. new vehicle fleet.

The Mexican standards are less complex, and do offer fewer flexibilities, but the annual targets for automakers have been reduced to account for this. The auto companies that are preparing to meet similar standards in other countries shouldn’t have any difficulty providing products that meet Mexico’s proposed standards.

For example, the final U.S. standards for model year 2016 allow improvements in air conditioning systems, which emit potent greenhouse gases, to be used towards compliance. The EPA and NHTSA estimate that for passenger vehicles, those AC credits will be worth 10.2 grams per mile for passenger cars n 2016. So if Mexico set the 2016 standard the same as the U.S. standard, but didn’t allow for the use of AC credits, then the Mexican standard would arguably be more difficult than the U.S. standard to meet. However, a comparison of Mexico’s passenger car standard to the U.S. standard reveals that Mexico lowered the stringency to account for the lack of these credits. The standard proposed by Mexico for 2016 passenger cars is less stringent by more than 12 grams/mile, more than making up for the lack of an AC credit. As a result, Mexico’s standard is essentially equivalent to the U.S. standard in 2016.*

Advancing clean cars across the globe strengthens markets for automaker innovations

In the past, automakers have cried foul over California having more stringent emission standards than the federal standards, arguing that two sets of standards was bad for business. (They liked to make the bogus claim of a “patchwork” of standards since CA standards have been adopted by other states, but there really were only two standards.)

If there were merit to this claim, you would think Toyota and other automakers would embrace Mexico’s actions. California and U.S. federal vehicle greenhouse gas standards are now aligned through 2025. Canada has adopted the 2012 through 2016 U.S. standards and Mexico’s adoption would extend the standards across the entirety of North America. Sounds like a great opportunity to harmonize standards across the North America market, providing automakers an opportunity to maximize the return on their investments in clean car technologies in the coming years.

Tell Toyota to put their lawyers back on the bench

Drivers in Mexico deserve access to the same fuel-saving technologies that auto companies provide to their other customers in the U.S. and other countries around the globe. Toyota needs to hear that supporting Mexico’s standards is the right course of action, especially for a company that espouses its green credentials.

  • Send a message to Toyota and tell them to drop their lawsuit and support Mexico’s fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards.

*CORRECTION November 2, 2012: The original sentence suggested Mexico’s proposed standard might be weaker. However, it is more accurate to say that Mexico’s proposed 2016 standard and the US standard are essentially equivalent on mpg given how small the difference is.