Los Angeles Times

Carmakers detour from president

GM seeks electric vehicle program; Honda recommends tougher fuel targets.

- By Ryan Beene and John Lippert Beene and Lippert write for Bloomberg.

Two of the biggest automakers are pushing back on the Trump administra­tion’s proposed rollback of U.S. fuel-economy standards.

In filings due at midnight Friday, General Motors Co. planned to propose that, rather than oppose California’s so-called zero-emission vehicle sales mandate, federal regulators should embrace a nationwide electric car sales program starting in 2021. Honda Motor Co., meanwhile, took exception to President Trump’s proposed freeze on mileage standards and called for steadily increasing requiremen­ts to continue.

The responses, to be proposed in formal comments to regulators, mark one of the clearest signs yet of the auto industry’s misgivings about the proposal to cap federal fuel-economy requiremen­ts in 2020 and unwind California’s power to set its own automobile fueleffici­ency standards and its zero-emission vehicle mandate.

“We know that we can do better” than the Trump proposal, Mark Reuss, GM’s executive vice president of global product developmen­t, told reporters in advance of the deadline. “We know that the industry can do better than that.”

GM says a nationwide program could put 7 million long-range electric cars on the road and slash 375 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, compared with existing zeroemissi­on vehicle mandates.

The Environmen­tal Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administra­tion in August recommende­d keeping federal fuel-economy requiremen­ts at 37 mpg from 2020 through 2026, instead of raising them to about 47 mpg by 2025 under rules adopted by the Obama administra­tion.

The agencies also want to revoke the most populous U.S. state’s authority to adopt fuel-efficiency rules of its own, including its electric car mandate.

In comments Friday, the California Air Resources Board called on the Trump administra­tion to withdraw its plan.

“The only clear winners from the efficiency-killing proposal are oil companies.” said Richard Corey, the agency’s executive officer, in a letter to federal regulators.

While the auto industry sought relief from the Obama rules, carmakers view the Trump administra­tion’s response as too aggressive. They fear it could force them to build vehicles for California and 12 other states that follow similar standards, and another f leet for the rest of the nation. That, said GM’s Reuss, would be “very costly, and frankly unnecessar­y.”

Automakers also worry about a drawn-out court fight.

California and 18 other states plan to attack the EPA and NHTSA proposal as unlawful. California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra on Wednesday called it arbitrary and capricious, and said that it violates procedural requiremen­ts and the EPA’s statutory obligation to reduce harmful pollution.

“GM is taking a leadership position in at least offering an alternativ­e to what could be this endless battle between the federal government and California,” said Michelle Krebs, an Autotrader analyst. “Whether the administra­tion will accept it, that’s another question.”

Toyota Motor Corp. said it too favors a 50-state emissions plan, saying in a statement that it is optimistic that “adjustment­s” can be made to the current regulation­s “that will continue environmen­tal progress” and satisfy regulators and companies while avoiding a patchwork of rules.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufactur­ers also said it supports a national standard with California’s continued involvemen­t. The associatio­n of 12 automakers including GM, Toyota and Volkswagen urged federal regulators to set “achievable” standards that “advance environmen­tal and energy goals while recognizin­g marketplac­e realities.”

Some greeted GM’s proposal with skepticism. David Friedman, who was a NHTSA deputy administra­tor during the Obama administra­tion, said in a statement that unless a national electric car mandate is coupled with stringent efficiency requiremen­ts, carmakers could still prioritize gas guzzlers and blunt emissions reductions.

“The devil is in the details,” said Friedman, vice president for advocacy at Consumer Reports. “We hope GM is truly serious about this proposal. If they are, they will support the existing [greenhouse gas] standards they committed to meet back in 2012 and sit down with us and other organizati­ons to craft a proposal designed to help all consumers.”

In its comments on the U.S. proposal, Honda said that it disagreed with the Trump administra­tion’s plan for revoking California’s rule-making authority and that key elements of the federal government’s analysis on traffic safety are flawed and should be scrapped.

Honda said pursuing the administra­tion’s preferred option would “bring years of uncertaint­y for the auto industry” while state and federal regulators duke it out in court. “A far better path would be for federal and state policymake­rs to negotiate a national program that is acceptable, if not ideal, for all parties including automakers,” Honda wrote.

Honda also recommende­d that the EPA maintain greenhouse gas targets that grow tougher each year instead of freezing them.

“The industry is united in its request that the agencies work out an agreement with California,” Honda said in its comments.

After initially heated rhetoric when the proposal was released, U.S. and California officials agreed to hold talks to explore whether uniform standards nationwide can be maintained. Senior U.S. officials have also said they’d like to reach a compromise, but a deal has yet to materializ­e.

In a statement Thursday, the free-market Institute for Energy Research said the existing standards are too aggressive, effectivel­y requiring automakers to produce electric cars that consumers still purchase in relatively small numbers.

 ?? Paul Sancya Associated Press ?? G M ’s Mark Reuss, second from right, says, “We know that we can do better” than the Trump fuel plan. He’s shown in 2016 with then-Transporta­tion chief Anthony Foxx, left, and then-NHTSA official Mark Rosekind.
Paul Sancya Associated Press G M ’s Mark Reuss, second from right, says, “We know that we can do better” than the Trump fuel plan. He’s shown in 2016 with then-Transporta­tion chief Anthony Foxx, left, and then-NHTSA official Mark Rosekind.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States