President Trump has long harped on the importance of the American automotive industry, but his policies haven’t always aligned with the interests of its biggest names. Last year, as Trump was in the midst of refashioning himself into a Tariff Man, Harley Davidson announced it was moving some of their production overseas due to the president’s new taxes on imported steel and aluminum. Other automakers like GM took a hit to their bottom line. Now, according to the New York Times, GM and 16 other companies — including Ford, Toyota and Honda — have written a letter asking Trump to reconsider his plans to overhaul emission regulations put into place during the Obama administration.
SCOOP:17 major automakers on Thursday sent a letter to Trump saying that his plan to undo auto pollution rules could actually hurt their bottom line. It's the most forceful public rebuke to date by the auto industry of Mr. Trump's push to undo the regs. https://t.co/b3ysjSHKIq
— Coral Davenport (@CoralMDavenport) June 6, 2019
Don’t pat automakers on the back just yet. The letter was not written out of some newfound moral obligation to rectify their role in climate change, but out of a desire to keep the automotive market from splitting in two. If Trump eliminates auto pollution regulations on a federal level, it doesn’t mean states like California won’t continue to enforce their own regulations. The resulting gap in standards would be so dramatic that it would essentially create two separate markets. This would be a disaster for manufacturers, hence the letter asking Trump to ease up.
A similar letter was sent to California Governor Gavin Newsom asking him to consider loosening up restrictions. Newsom doesn’t seem interested. “A rollback of auto emissions standards is bad for the climate and bad for the economy,” he wrote in an email to the Times. “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.”
Once Trump’s plan to eliminate restrictions is released officially later this summer, California and other states are expected to sue the administration. The automakers’ letter to Trump warned of “an extended period of litigation and instability.” In addition to the potential litigation, manufacturers would have to abide by two different mileage regulations, potentially causing wild swings in the prices of both electric cars and SUVs.
“We strongly believe the best path to preserve good auto jobs and keep new vehicles affordable for more Americans is a final rule supported by all parties — including California,” read the letter, in which manufacturers also acknowledged that they may have influenced Trump’s drive to roll back emissions standards when in 2017 they asked him to considering loosening some of the restrictions but in place by Obama.
As is always the case with Trump, be careful what you wish for.