GM Stops Backing Trump Administration in Emissions Fight With California

Source: By Mike Colias, Wall Street Journal • Posted: Monday, November 23, 2020

Company sees path to compromise on fuel economy rules

General Motors Co. will no longer back the Trump administration in its legal battle to strip California’s authority to set its own fuel-efficiency regulations, saying GM’s goals for green cars are aligned with the state and the new Biden administration.

In October 2019, GM intervened in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups challenging the Trump administration’s decision to revoke a federal waiver that allows California to set its own tailpipe-emissions standards. GM was joined byToyota Motor Corp. TM +0.98% , Fiat Chrysler Automobiles FCAU -0.16% NV and other car companies in siding with the administration’s view that federal regulators should set the rules, not individual states.

On Monday, GM said it has withdrawn from that lawsuit and encouraged other auto makers to follow, saying it sees a route to compromise on tailpipe-emission rules.

“We are confident that the Biden Administration, California, and the U.S. auto industry, which supports 10.3 million jobs, can collaboratively find the pathway that will deliver an all-electric future,” reads a letter GM released from Chief Executive Mary Barra to the environmental groups that brought the suit.

Fiat Chrysler didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Environmental Protection Agency spokesman James Hewitt said “it’s always interesting to see the changing positions of U.S. corporations.” He declined to comment further.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ms. Barra’s letter also said GM is encouraged by President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to create jobs by supporting the adoption of electric vehicles. The letter is a public signal that GM is ready to work with the Biden administration, even though President Trump has yet to concede the election and continues to challenge the outcome.

GM is placing among the auto industry’s biggest bets on electric cars, upping its investment last week to $27 billion through mid-decade. Ms. Barra has said GM believes the industry is moving toward a future in which cars will be fully electric and emit no tailpipe emissions.

Still, environmental groups sharply criticized GM and Toyota for siding with the Trump administration on the issue. The companies at the time said they backed a single, national standard on fuel economy because it would be too costly if states established rules individually and they had to develop vehicles for different markets.

The auto industry has been divided on the issue of fuel economy amid the legal wrangling between California and the Trump administration. The two have also clashed over new emissions regulations finalized this year that eased rules put in place under President Obama.

Last summer, a group of four auto makers led by Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. came to an agreement with California regulators to meet standards tougher than those proposed by the Trump administration, but less-stringent than the Obama-era rules. These auto makers also agreed not to challenge California’s authority.

 

Write to Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com

|