Man-Bites-Dog: Toyota sues to stop Mexico's fuel economy program
Yes, the company that brought you the Prius has been quietly working to undermine a multi-year effort to harmonize Mexico’s fuel economy standards with the US standards. If this is not a man-bites-dog story, I don’t know what is.
Here’s the basic story:
In July, after several years of collaborative work among Mexican government agencies, the auto industry and environmental stakeholders, Mexico proposed a new regulatory program (“NOM-163”) that would bring Mexico’s fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for cars, pickup trucks and SUVs up to the levels of the 2012-2016 fuel economy standards in the U.S. (To see the proposal in Spanish, click here. For a summary of the proposal in English, see here).
The new NOM-163 was designed to quickly increase Mexico’s average fuel economy levels to 35 mpg (14.9 km/L) by 2016, and to put Mexico on the path towards fully harmonized standards throughout North America that the U.S. and Canada have already been on.
Adopting NOM-163 would be good for automakers who want a consistent product line throughout the region, for consumers who want to save money on fuel costs wherever they live, and for the environment, which would benefit from the lower emissions of all of the new vehicles sold throughout North America.
The program will save Mexican drivers an estimated $39 billion dollars (or 513 billion pesos), cut 170 million tons of greenhouse gases, and conserve 70 billion liters of fuel.
Throughout the 60-day comment period that followed, NRDC and our partners in Mexico heard no major technical objections to the proposal. Given that the proposal follows the U.S. program that is already being implemented successfully, that came as no surprise to any of us.
What was a surprise?
Recently, we were stunned to learn that Toyota—Toyota!—quietly filed a lawsuit to stop the proposal from even being considered. They filed their suit in the Tribunal Federal de Justicia Fiscal y Administrativa in early September. On September 20, the federal government was notified that the court had issued an injunction against proceeding with finalizing the proposal.
Toyota’s actions are truly stunning.
The company didn’t use the 60-day public comment period to work with the government to try to address its concerns in the context of the regulatory process. In fact, Toyota filed its lawsuit before the public comment period even closed. And, the company only filed short comments on the Mexican proposal late in the process. They have not issued any public statement that explains their actions. Indeed, they have never spoken publicly about any concerns whatsoever with the Mexican fuel economy proposal.
So, to sum up: Instead of working through the regulatory process, they quietly filed a lawsuit against a mere proposal. And somehow, they got a court to agree to stop the proposal before it could be finalized, and before the public was aware of what Toyota was trying to do.
Clearly, this is a man-bites-dog situation: the auto company that has made its name selling fuel-efficient cars in the US has been quietly suing to stop progress on fuel economy south of our border.
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