DoJ Probes Automaker Collusion With California Officials Over Emissions-Standards

The Justice Department has started an antitrust investigation into Ford, Honda, BMW, and Volkswagen, aiming to determine if the automakers violated federal competition law by making an independent agreement with California on vehicle emissions standards.

The investigation, preliminary in nature, is the latest salvo from a Trump administration that is intent on curbing California’s influence on the auto industry.

Specifically, DoJ lawyers are seeking to determine if the automakers violated federal competition law by agreeing with each other to follow tailpipe-emissions standards beyond those proposed by the Trump administration, the people said.

The four companies and the California Air Resources Board announced the deal to signal support for keeping one, nationwide emissions standard. But the Trump administration and others question how the rules will be administered, and whether California might give special treatment on compliance and approval for new models for companies participating in the agreement.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the new antitrust inquiry by the Justice Department stands to escalate tensions between Washington, Sacramento and the auto industry over plans by the Trump administration to roll back clean-air mandates on auto makers.