Gas War: California Brings Stellantis to Heel


gas war california brings stellantis to heel

Stellantis has agreed to adhere to California emission policies, including requirements to make two-thirds of new cars to zero-emission or electric by 2030. This means the automaker — which oversees Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram, Fiat, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and several brands that are not sold in the United States — will be required to cut emissions through the 2026 model year and adhere to California’s requirement to have a majority electrified fleet within the next several years. There are also provisions for the company to spend millions of dollars on charging stations and community outreach programs designed to encourage EV sales.

The assumption is that this is being done ahead of the 2024 presidential election in case Donald Trump wins and attempts to reinstate fuel economy rollbacks or revoke the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) emission waivers — both of which were undone by Joe Biden via executive order in 2021.

From CARB:

Under the agreement, Stellantis will contribute to save more than 10 million additional metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions beyond compliance with existing standards through the 2026 model year. Furthermore, Stellantis will comply with California’s zero-emissions light-duty vehicle sales requirements through 2030 even if CARB is unable to enforce its standards as a result of judicial or federal action. The automaker will extend its educational programs specific to zero-emissions vehicles as well as invest $4 million in California to deploy public charging infrastructure in places such as tribal areas and in federal, state, and county parks, plus an additional $6 million in other states that have adopted California’s greenhouse gas emissions standards for these model years.

The agreement with Stellantis is the latest example of California’s ongoing collaboration with vehicle manufacturers that improves public health, reduces climate pollution, and increases consumer options while providing a sure path forward toward a clean vehicle future. Under the partnership, Stellantis has committed not to oppose California’s authority under the Clean Air Act for its greenhouse gas emissions and zero-emissions vehicle standards.

While Reuters framed the situation as Stellantis having “unsuccessfully sought to join a deal that other automakers had struck” with California in 2019, the reality is quite a bit different.

Stellantis didn’t even exist at the time and its predecessor, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), was pretty adamant about not being interested in courting emissions compliance any more than necessary. Meanwhile, California was effectively bullying companies into vowing to adhere to its extremely stringent emission standards if they wanted to continue selling vehicles within the state.

At the time, the Trump administration had attempted to revoke the California Air Resources Board having its own emission standards as part of a broader rollback of Obama-era vehicle regulations. The concern was that those targets were wildly unrealistic and included loopholes that were already creating a weird dichotomy in the market. Manufacturers were being incentivized to build extremely large and inefficient pickups while likewise cutting their most affordable models from the lineup while they aggressively pursued electrification.

Trump claimed a sudden influx of EVs would not sell and that regular Americans would gradually be priced out of the automotive market as their options became more limited. His argument was that the government should focus on trying to nudge the industry toward building safer vehicles, keeping prices down, and maximizing domestic labor.

California having a waiver to issue its own benchmarks further complicated the matter. Due to the state’s large population, there were concerns that its stringent emissions targets would become the de facto national standard. Despite claims to the contrary and numerous lawsuits, this is effectively what California attempted, too. The state then issued a letter to automakers stipulating that they would need to publicly promise to adhere to its standards (rather than the updated federal ones) if they wanted to continue selling within the Golden State. This included a pathway to ban combustion vehicles by 2030.

FCA’s Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne passed away in 2018. But he repeatedly and openly expressed his distaste for emissions compliance. When other companies yielded to California, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles were one of the few mainstream brands that stood in opposition. Leadership made it clear that FCA endorsed the Trump emission rollbacks, noting that the company offered numerous models boasting large engines.

“Carmakers that have chosen to be on the wrong side of history will be on the losing end of California’s buying power,” Governor Gavin Newsom threatened in 2019.

Frances’ PSA Group purchased FCA in 2021, creating the massive Stellantis, and it seems to possess leadership that is much more eager to run with smaller engines and widespread electrification. Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares’ past statements show him as wholly behind the climate agenda and he has welcomed the automaker having pledged its fealty to California. The company itself likewise has a “Dare Forward 2030” strategic plan that’s all about dumping money into electrification so it can sell a majority of battery electric vehicles within the obligatory time-frame.

gas war california brings stellantis to heel

“Together, we have found a win-win solution that is good for the customer and good for the planet,” Tavares said. “This agreement will avoid 10 to 12 million metric tons [of] greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of the agreement and will also allow our U.S. customers to fully benefit from our advanced technologies, including five plug-in hybrids and two pure electric vehicles. We remain as determined as ever to offer sustainable options across our brand portfolio and being a leader in the global decarbonization efforts.”

These days, only those living the most charmed and out-of-touch existences are swayed by the presumed horrors of climate change. Most regular people living today have bigger fish to fry than fretting over exactly how each automaker wants to pretend it’s a friend of the environment. However, CEOs and government officials haven’t learned this yet and will continue using it as a strategy to wrangle authority and pedal influence. This particular brand of public-private partnerships will persist as a softer kind of fascism until they’re outed for what they are.

“This partnership with Stellantis will help California achieve our ambitious goals to drastically cut pollution and get more clean cars on the roads,” Governor Gavin Newsom said of the deal. “The biggest and most influential companies in the world understand that this is how we can fight climate change together, and it’s another example of the private sector joining California to help millions of people get into clean vehicles.”

However, none of the above serves as definitive proof of the future. Companies holding out against California caved once the Biden administration took office and nullified softened emission rules. Assuming Trump returns to the White House, there’s a very good chance many automakers will change their allegiances yet again. But that likewise does not preclude the continuation of unsavory political partnerships between government and industry, which presently seems to be the status quo for all parties. Either way, companies lining up to choose sides in a war where the rules of engagement and objectives constantly change every few years hardly seems like a sound strategy to produce reliable, affordable automobiles that meet the needs of the average consumer.

[Images: Stellantis]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by  subscribing to our newsletter.

Source link