Subaru: Stop Helping the Trump Administration Make Cars Less Efficient

Updated with NEW Letters

The Union of Concerned Scientists (Winter 2020) reports that Subaru is in a group of automakers trying to fight California’s right to keep a higher emission/efficiency standard while the Trump administration is rolling back the national standards.

OCA member Janis Burger is a Subaru owner and she’s written a letter to Ms. Anton, Manager of Corporate Communications in the U.S. (danton@subaru.com). Janis would like to share that letter with other members and Subaru owners alike.

Why California gets to write its own auto emissions standards:
5 questions answered — The Conversation

Why Trump Wants to Revoke California’s Clean-Air Waiver — The Atlantic

Search: California’s clean-air waiver

Dear Ms. Anton,

I’m hoping you can pass these concerns on to the relevant corporate decision makers.

I’ve been a Subaru owner for most of my adult life, as are many of my friends here in outdoorsy Washington state. We are also surrounded by mountains with declining snowpack and retreating glaciers. We are seeing worrisome declines in downstream water supplies, increasing forest fires and days with health-compromising smoke, and more. And ocean acidification is exacerbated on our coast and impacting tidepool species, even in Olympic National Park and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. They can be protected somewhat by their park and sanctuary status, but not from inaction by us humans regarding climate change.

It’s a crime that the newest Subaru’s and even the hybrid Cross-trek barely get better mileage than my old 1992 Legacy got. The Obama administration’s efforts to increase vehicle efficiency and emissions standards were a strong move to cutting global emissions. Now the current administration is ignoring science and trying to roll those back and is even challenging California’s right to keep the higher standards. So it’s shocking that Subaru is part of the disingenuously named Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation that is fighting California’s right in the absence of stronger federal standards. As the Union for Concerned Scientists has reported, Subaru at least has removed the hypocritical posting on its website about AWD vehicles keeping us safe in a changing environment, all the while fighting efficiency standards that would help fight that change.

I will be taking a look at Honda’s line of SUVs and hybrids now since they, BMW, Ford and VW are siding with California.

I hope Subaru’s management will be a better corporate citizen of this planet, join the automakers above to embrace the original Obama guidelines (or even strive to exceed the more ambitious standards since we’re seeing the climate warming faster than even experts predicted).

I’ll be sharing this email with all my Subaru owning friends and members of our local climate action group so we can get the word out.

If you have any updates, I’d love to hear from you.

Sincerely,
Janis Burger

Dear Ms. Danton,
I recently read Janis Burger’s letter to you regarding Subaru’s regrettable roll in its attempt to undermine California’s Waiver from federal air quality standards.

First of all, you should know that Janis’s voice is that of a regional one.  Her community connections and social influences are extensive, have been carefully cultivated and nurtured over the course of her VERY public professional career as one of the best interpreters in the National Park Service.   When Janis speaks people listen to the power of her rock solid analysis.  As her colleague I have watched her skills deployed upon such varied recipients as James Watt, Ronald Regan’s Interior Secretary, and countless visitors over her career at Olympic National Park who become spellbound by her interpretive presentations.  In short, she commands the instant respect reserved for those special few able to teach/share their personal values by extraordinarily skilled example.

So in this heavily-laden Subaru community here on the North Olympic Peninsula where “outdoorsy” is by definition woven into our daily life, Janis will be closely looking at your market competitors on her next round of vehicle shopping.  As will I and the many, many Subaru owners in this community, thanks to Janis.

Please feel free to let me know of any changes in Subaru’s position of undermining California’s Waiver from federal air quality standards.

Sincerely,
James Wesley

Hello Mr. Wesley:

Thank you for contacting Subaru of America, Inc. regarding Janis Burger’s letter to Subaru.

Subaru of America is a member of Global Automakers and continues to support One National Standard that reduces greenhouse gasses and improves current fuel economy standards under the authority of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

I will pass on your feedback to Product Development for their review and consideration. Past input from our customers has been helpful in initiating changes to our products. The most valued opinion of any business is that of its customers.

Thank you again for your message to Subaru.

Sincerely,

John J. Mergen
Subaru of America, Inc.
Customer/Retailer Services Department

Dear Mr. Mergen:  Your response is disingenuous; see pages 18-19 here in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ magazine:
https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/Catalyst-Winter-2020.pdf

Subaru was one of the companies who rejected the compromise national solution that California was working on with other car manufacturers such as Ford and Honda:
 “A group of automakers attempted to resolve the uncertainty last summer, when BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen agreed with California on a voluntary framework for future emissions standards. Rather than pushing the companies to offer a different vehicle mix in California than the rest of the country, the agreement allows them the flexibility to meet the state’s rigorous standards by manufacturing a nationwide fleet more in line with California’s transition to a cleaner, electric transportation future. In return, the companies explicitly acknowledged California’s legal authority to set strong standards under both its Lowand Zero-Emission Vehicle programs.”

If Subaru was acting in good faith, it would have joined with this effort. Instead:

“Near the end of 2019, instead of signing on to the California deal, much of the rest of the industry banded together to create the misnamed Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation (CSAR). CSAR is led by Fiat-Chrysler (comprising Jeep, Dodge, and other brands), General Motors, and Toyota, but also includes Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, and Subaru, as well as the National Automobile Dealers Association. The group claims that it seeks “a national regulatory program that includes feasible increases in fuel economy, along with holistic market-based approaches that facilitate the continued transition [to] efficient advanced technologies, including electrification.” If this were true, CSAR would have signed onto the California deal, which actually provides these benefits. California’s ability to set its own standards has brought countless auto industry innovations to market, including catalytic converters, hybrids, and electric vehicles. And now the very companies that could and should be investing in the technologies needed for a more sustainable transportation future are instead expending time and energy fighting against environmental protections. In other words, CSAR exists not to support sensible long-term standards, but to support the Trump administration’s position that California does not have the legal authority to protect its own residents.”

How do you explain the discrepancy between your statements and the facts on the ground? This appears to be greenwashing at its most cynical. 

Ed Chadd, chair
Olympic Climate Action