But the White House said Friday it’s pedal-to-the-metal for deregulation.
The manufacturers — including General Motors, Ford, BMW, Toyota, Volkswagon and Volvo — said that plans to weaken the standards could create a hodgepodge of regulations, foment uncertainty that will affect model planning and profits, and threaten to make cars less competitive.
The manufacturers warned that the changes could cause an “extended period of litigation and instability.”
“What works best for consumers, communities, and the millions of U.S. employees that work in the auto industry is one national standard that is practical, achievable, and consistent across the 50 states,” the automakers said in the letter Thursday. “In addition, our customers expect continuous improvements in safety, efficiency, and capability.”
The current regulations — based on California standards — require car manufacturers to produce increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles so that by 2025 the nation’s trucks and cars would average 54.5 miles per gallon.
Ironically, the carmakers initially appealed to Trump to loosen the rules but were surprised when the administration opted instead for a wholesale rewrite. The Trump administration is proposing freezing mileage targets at about 36 mpg for cars after 2020.
The plan is projected to boost daily gas consumption across the nation by about 500,000 barrels a day, worsening greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
The changes could present a risky, uneven playing field for manufacturers. If they opt to conform to weak federal standards, they could be cut out of lucrative markets in California and some other states, and be far less competitive in European markets because of stricter regulations. But if they produce more fuel-efficient cars, they risk losing market share to cheaper, smoke-belching cars devastating to the environment.
The Trump administration aims to block California from setting its own anti-pollution standards. But Attorney General Xavier Becerra has said the state will sue the Trump administration if it attempts to weaken California standards with its new proposal. About a third of states in the U.S. have already adopted California’s standards.
The car manufacturers pleaded in the letter that the federal government reach some kind of compromise on standards with California, but talks broke off in February.
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times on Friday: “We are moving forward to finalize a rule with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles” — meaning the Trump administration is proceeding with its plan.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told the L.A. Times: “I remember the days of intense smog and vehicle pollution in California, when you couldn’t see beyond two blocks in parts of Los Angeles. California is now in the vanguard of fighting climate change, and reducing auto emissions is critical to that effort. We’re not going to backtrack.”