- Toyota is just one of 10 automakers siding with Trump in the fuel-economy fight, along with General Motors and several others, but Toyota’s longstanding green halo is giving Twitter users a chance to vent, even as the State of California takes steps to ban the purchase of government vehicles from any of the 10.
- On the other hand, Honda, Ford, Volkswagen, and BMW have all made a deal with California to go along with stronger fuel-economy rules.
- There’s a 12.8-mpg difference between California’s goal for passenger cars and the one the Trump administration wants as a nationwide rule.
Online fallout from the decision by 10 automakers to align with the Trump administration on its “one national policy” on fuel-economy rules has reached the loud echo chamber that is Twitter. The State of California went a step further on Friday when it announced a new policy: from now on, state-government vehicles can only be purchased from automakers that recognize California’s right to set its own, higher fuel-economy and emissions standards.
Toyota has been singled out for special criticism in the Twitterverse, though. On October 30, former Secretary of Labor and frequent Trump critic Robert Reich tweeted he was done with the Japanese automaker. “Toyota, good bye. The environmental goodwill you’ve built by pioneering hybrid cars has vanished in your choice of Trump over California.”
In the abstract, a single national policy sounds sensible, but in effect it meant that these automakers were siding with the Trump administration and against California, which had previously announced it would forge ahead with its own set of fuel-economy standards that would be more stringent than what the Trump administration was trying to change the national standard to. Under the Obama administration, automakers, the federal regulators, and the state of California had all agreed to a national standard of 54.5 mpg by 2025. The Trump administration announced in August 2018 that it instead wanted to freeze the fuel-economy increase at 2020 levels, which are 41.7 mpg for passenger cars and 31.3 mpg for light trucks.
When it came out in favor of one national policy, Toyota released a statement saying, in part, that it almost had no choice:
“Toyota is intervening to impact how emissions standards are applied . . . Without joining this legal action, we would have no ability to affect the outcome. We do not believe that there should be different fuel economy standards in different states. There should be one standard for all Americans and all auto companies. That is why we decided to be part of this legal matter. Doing so does not diminish our commitment to the environment, nor does it lower our desire to manufacture vehicles that produce fewer emissions year-after-year.”
The other automakers that joined Toyota in coming out against California’s higher standards include Ferrari, Fiat Chrysler, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Subaru. The #GMTrump hashtag is getting some online attention, but with Toyota’s green halo, Reich’s tweet has led the charge, with almost 9000 likes and 3000 retweets, and many others commenting unfavorably on Toyota’s tweet as well. Most of the comments are of the “I was thinking of buying a Toyota, but not anymore” variety, with a few other “why is Toyota joining forces with a sinking ship?” thrown in for good measure.
Just how deep online outrage actually runs and how easy it is to gin up a crowd on Twitter are the subjects of a million TED Talks and podcasts, which makes calculating the real-world impact of these Tweets impossible to measure. But the betrayal feels real, which is why the attack on Toyota is stronger than other automakers who joined the “one national policy” side.
Earlier this year, BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen all made deals with California to continue to support the higher-mpg results the state wanted. It wasn’t quite the same as the Obama-era federal rules, but close, getting to about 50 mpg by 2026.