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Poll: Higher Emissions Change Customers' Views of Automakers

Auto manufacturers that support a Trump administration plan to relax EPA tailpipe emissions standards could be losing loyal customers, according to a new poll. (Tyler Olsen/Adobe Stock)
Auto manufacturers that support a Trump administration plan to relax EPA tailpipe emissions standards could be losing loyal customers, according to a new poll. (Tyler Olsen/Adobe Stock)
January 29, 2020

PHOENIX -- Carmakers that support a Trump administration plan to cut Environmental Protection Agency auto-emission standards could be alienating their customers, according to a poll from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Several car companies, including Toyota, are backing a lawsuit to prevent states from setting tougher emissions standards than the feds. The relaxed standards could hurt Arizona, which already has some of the highest air-pollution levels in the country.

Shannon Baker-Branstetter, manager of cars and denergy policy for Consumer Reports, said the government's own analysis shows lower tailpipe standards would hurt fuel economy, and cost drivers an average of $1,400 more a year in gas.

"The stronger fuel economy and greenhouse-gas emission standards improve both consumer pocketbooks and reduce pollution, and so, that really is a win-win," she said. "However, rolling back the rule will increase pollution, as well as cost consumers money."

Toyota did not respond to a request for comment. The Trump administration has claimed cutting emissions standards will lower sticker prices on vehicles.

Other carmakers, including Volkswagen, Ford, BMW and Honda, have agreed to follow California's more stringent standards, already adopted by 14 other states. Pollster Matt George, who conducted the study, said that after learning about the lawsuit, many Toyota owners who believed the company produces "green and sustainable" vehicles changed their opinion.

"Seventy-eight percent at the outset of the poll, more than three-quarters, said that they would definitely purchase a Toyota," said George, president of Matt George Associates. "After they learned more about Toyota's decisions on emissions standards, that number drops to 47%."

Baker-Branstetter said the new EPA rule isn't final yet, so she has hope that the rollbacks might still be prevented.

"Consumer Reports sent letters to automakers -- along with signatures of 75,000 consumers -- asking those automakers to drop their opposition to clean-car standards, and join states that are leading the way in setting cleaner car standards."

Clean-air advocates have said they hope public awareness will pressure the EPA to withdraw the lawsuit and allow California to keep its higher emissions standards.

The poll is online at ucsusa.org.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ