Justice Dept investigating whether Ford, VW, Honda, BMW 'violated federal competition law'

Justice Dept investigating whether Ford, VW, Honda, BMW 'violated federal competition law'
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The Justice Department is investigating several top automakers over an agreement the companies struck with California to honor the state's emissions standards, which are stricter than those set by the Trump administration.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Ford are the targets of an antitrust investigation into whether the four companies violated the law by agreeing to follow emissions standards set by California, which conflict with the Trump administration's plans to roll back emissions standards.

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The investigation, still in its early stages, reportedly centers around whether the companies' agreement with California unfairly stifles auto sale competition in the state. The review reportedly began without direction from the White House and was instigated by the agency's Antitrust Division, a source told the Journal.

Honda confirmed to The Hill in an email that the company had received the Justice Department's request for information on the deal and pledged to cooperate in a statement.

"We will work cooperatively with the Department of Justice with regard to the recent emissions agreement reached between the State of California and various automotive manufacturers, including Honda," the company said in a statement.

"BMW of North America received a letter from the Department of Justice requesting information concerning a planned CARB [California Air Resources Board] framework agreement with BMW NA and other OEMs," a BMW spokesperson told The Hill in an email. "We look forward to responding to the Department of Justice to explain the planned CARB framework agreement and its benefits to consumers and the environment."

Ford and representatives also confirmed Ford's cooperation with the Justice Department amid the probe to The Wall Street Journal, while a Volkswagen spokesperson declined to comment to the newspaper.

Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air and Resource Board, called the DOJ's investigation a scare tactic.

“The US Department of Justice brings its weight to bear against auto companies in an attempt to frighten them out of voluntarily making cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks than EPA wants. Consumers might ask, who is Andy Wheeler protecting?," Nichols said in a statement.

The Trump administration and California's state government have battled over a number of environmental regulatory actions over the past two years, including over the rollback of the Clean Power Plan.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation also sent a joint warning to California officials on Friday, warning that their emissions standards could violate federal law.

“Congress has squarely vested the authority to set fuel economy standards for new motor vehicles, and nationwide standards for [greenhouse gas] vehicle emissions, with the federal government, not with California or any other state,” the letter reads.