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Ford Miffed by EPA’s ‘Eleventh-Hour Politics,’ Turns to Trump for Help

Mark-Fields (Image: Ford)

Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields doesn’t have kind words for the Environmental Protection Agency’s surprise decision to keep long-term fuel economy targets in place.

A mid-term review of corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) targets set in 2012 kicked off earlier this year, but the timing of the agency’s recent decision to maintain the 54.5 mile-per-gallon goal reeks of politics, Fields claims.

For automakers, reaching 54.5 mpg means extra costs. To avoid this, Ford is prepared to turn to its election campaign sparring partner — President-elect Donald Trump — for help.

The election saw no limit to the acrimony between Trump and Ford, but that was then, and there’s money at stake now. In a Friday interview with Bloomberg, Fields made it clear he wants Trump to pull levers in Ford’s favor.

“We will be very clear in the things we’d like to see,” Fields said.

The Trump wish list includes currency-manipulation rules (in the interest of fair trade), tax reform and safety rules for autonomous vehicles, but there’s something else Ford is prepared to lobby for: lowering that pesky CAFE target.

The timing of the EPA’s decision is widely seen as a political move, and Field’s doesn’t see it any other way. The review began this past spring, and a final determination wasn’t required until April 1, 2018. Even with the technological advancements seen since 2012, the regulators behind CAFE predict an industry-wide fuel economy average of 50.8 miles per gallon by 2025, meaning added pressure on automakers to go the extra mile.

Fields claims the decision disrupted the review.

“What happened was through eleventh-hour politics, it short-circuited a data-driven development of regulations,” he said. Fields promises to lobby Trump to lower federal and state fuel economy targets.

The extra mileage mandated by the EPA means automakers will likely fill the gap with money-losing electric cars and pricey hybrids. General Motors expects to lose $9,000 on every Chevrolet Bolt, so it’s not a recipe for profit. While Ford has plans to expand its EV offerings, it does so tentatively.

“In 2008, there were 12 electrified vehicles offered in the U.S. market and it represented 2.3 percent of the industry,� Fields said. “Fast forward to 2016, there’s 55 models, and year to date it’s 2.8 percent.�

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to have customers, so obviously, there would be pressure on the business if there’s not a market,� he claimed.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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