Expert reaction to Trump administration plans to roll back on fuel efficiency standards for vehicles

While announced a week ago, there is still great concern about the pull back on fuel efficiency standards. Alyssa Danigelis provides a good article on the Environmental Leader website about the reaction from auto industry experts.


Auto Industry Responds To Fuel Efficiency Standards Rollbacks

In the wake of the Trump administration’s announcement last week rolling back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards, several automakers are responding with prepared statements and calls to reporters. US auto industry experts are also weighing in what to expect.

After hinting at the change earlier this year, the administration proposed freezing fuel efficiency standards for six years last Thursday. Under the Obama administration, gas mileage standards were set to go up significantly by 2025. A coalition of attorneys general from 19 states announced plans to sue the EPA over the rollback.

“What the auto industry wants to avoid is the black eye of being in favor of rolling back fuel efficiency and emissions standards,” John McElroy, host of the TV show Autoline, told NPR. “They did want some relief from the Obama administration’s goals, but they didn’t quite want the kind of relief that the Trump administration is giving them.”

When the Trump proposal was first floated in the spring, GM and Ford responded.

“Our commitment to an all-electric, zero-emissions future is unwavering, regardless of any modifications to future fuel economy standards,” General Motors chairman and CEO Mary Barra told an energy conference at the time.

Ford executive chairman Bill Ford and the automaker’s president and CEO Jim Hackett wrote on Medium, “We support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback. We want one set of standards nationally, along with additional flexibility to help us provide more affordable options for our customers. We believe that working together with EPA, NHTSA, and California, we can deliver on this standard.”

Recent public statements have been slightly more cautious:

  • General Motors released a statement to the press that said, “We are encouraged the proposal includes provisions that would recognize the environmental benefits of new technology developments such as the increased use of electric vehicles, autonomous and related technologies,” Automotive News reported. “We look forward to working with all parties to achieve one national 50-state program. Regardless of the standards, we remain committed to a future of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion. The pathway to that vision includes continually improving fuel economy and our commitment to an all-electric future.”
  • Christin Baker, a spokeswoman for Ford Motor Company, told Bloomberg Environment in a statement, “Our truck customers want to reduce [greenhouse gases] and pay less at pump but not sacrifice power.” Among Ford’s new electric vehicle models is a hybrid F-150 pickup truck, Baker noted. “And as the best-selling vehicle in the US for more than 40 years, the adoption of a hybrid truck can make a big impact,” she said.
  • Fiat Chrysler of America issued a statement published by the Department of Transportation presented as support for the administration’s plan: “At its core, the proposed rule recognizes that assumptions made in 2012 about consumer preferences have fundamentally shifted in 2018. The proposal includes a range of options, and we will carefully evaluate how each aligns with FCA’s goals of continuous improvement in vehicle efficiency and, at the same time, building vehicles customers want, at prices they can afford.”

California’s Program at Stake

Also under the new proposal, the EPA and the DOT want to limit California’s authority to set stricter tailpipe emissions limits and zero emission vehicle requirements than the federal government, Abby Smith wrote in the Bloomberg Environment & Energy Report.

Eliminating California’s zero emission vehicle program could cause a slight drop-off in US consumer purchases of electric vehicles at the very least, Nikolas Soulopoulos, a senior analyst for advanced transportation at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told Bloomberg Environment. “It has the potential to be a blow to the adoption in the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, suppliers urged stakeholder cooperation. “The automotive suppliers call on national and state policymakers, auto manufacturers and labor to unite, like they did six years ago, on standards that maintain US environmental leadership, save consumers money, and support our industry,” Tim Regan, president of the Emission Control Technology Association, said in a statement published by Automotive News.

Analysts say that the administration’s move is at odds with the direction automakers have been headed, driven by the rapid growth of China’s electric vehicle market, Smith reported in BNA.

“China has in place a stringent set of regulations, on both the supply and demand side, to encourage and require zero emission vehicle sales,” she wrote. “The country has fuel economy regulations, as well as a zero emission vehicle mandate that begins in 2019 and 2020.”

McElroy told NPR that US car companies dislike the uncertainty that the proposal creates, particularly around electric vehicle models, because billions of dollars are at stake. “They’re very worried about this because this is going to get tied up in court,” he said. “It’s almost a certainty that this is going to have to be decided by the Supreme Court.”

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