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17 of World’s Largest Car Makers Ask Trump for Compromise on Plan to Weaken Fuel Efficiency Standards

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Ford F150 trucks go through the customer acceptance line at the Ford Dearborn Truck Plant on Sept. 27, 2018 in Dearborn, Michigan. Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

Seventeen of the world's largest automakers want President Donald Trump to find a compromise with California on his plan to weaken Obama-era tailpipe emissions standards, The New York Times reported.



In a letter sent to Trump on Thursday, car companies including Ford, General Motors, Toyota and BMW asked the administration to return to the negotiating table so as to avoid "an extended period of litigation and instability." They worried the current plans would hurt their profits.

Automakers had initially sought a weakening of the standards put in place by former President Barack Obama to address the climate crisis. The standards would have set a fuel efficiency target of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. But the Trump administration draft plan would freeze mileage standards at around 37 miles per gallon and revoke California's waiver to set its own standards under the Clean Air Act, all but guaranteeing that California and the 13 other states that have adopted its tougher standards would sue. Car makers are then worried about having to design cars for two separate U.S. markets.

"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 companies wrote, according to the Detroit Free Press. "In addition, our customers expect continuous improvements in safety, efficiency, and capability. For these reasons, we support a unified standard that both achieves year-over-year improvements in fuel economy and facilitates the adoption of vehicles with alternative powertrains."

Negotiations between California and the administration on a national standard broke down in February, and the final Trump fuel efficiency plan is due this summer.

"Our thinking is, the rule is still being finalized, there is still time to develop a final rule that is good for consumers, policymakers and automakers," Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Vice President Gloria Bergquist told The New York Times.

Fiat Chrysler was the only of the Big Three U.S. car companies not to sign the letter. Other companies who did sign included Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Volvo and Volkswagen.

Some questioned the timing of the automakers' intervention.

"The reality was if they had sent these letters months ago, there might have been a possibility of doing something," Safe Climate Campaign of the Center for Auto Safety Director Dan Becker told the Los Angeles Times. "But doing it at the last minute when they know the administration is poised to issue this rule any week now … it's just so they can say to people who object: 'Oh, we were opposed, we weren't in Trump's pocket.'"

Auto industry analyst Jeremy Acevedo, on the other hand, saw the letter as an admission from car companies that they "bit off more than they could chew" when they asked for the Obama-era standards to be weakened.

"This letter in some ways represents ceding defeat to California and the CARB states, but it proves how desperate automakers are to avoid having two different fuel economy standards," he told the Detroit Free Press. "While automakers may not want to meet these aggressive targets, at least it's something they can plan for, as opposed to years of uncertainty waiting out a lengthy court battle."

The automakers also sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom, encouraging him to work with the Trump administration to develop a standard "midway" between the Obama-era rules and the proposed rollbacks.

But Newsom told The New York Times he is not interested in finding a "midway" position.

"A rollback of auto emissions standards is bad for the climate and bad for the economy," Newsom wrote in an email. "I applaud the automakers for saying as much in their letter today to the President. We should keep working towards one national standard — one that doesn't backtrack on the progress states like California have made."

If the Trump rollbacks go through, they would increase U.S. gas consumption by some 500,000 barrels a day, raising greenhouse gas emissions, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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