Jun 7, 2019

Big automakers' Trump problem

President Trump in the cab of a tractor-trailer at the White House in 2017. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Big automakers fearful of tariffs against Mexico are expressing fresh angst about another White House plan: looming rules that would gut Obama-era mileage and emissions mandates.

Driving the news: Ford, GM, Toyota, VW and over a dozen others sent a letter yesterday urging President Trump to reopen talks with California, which is battling his efforts to freeze Obama's standards in 2020 rather than letting them grow stricter.

The big picture: The June 6 letter and separate fears about tariffs underscore the messy relationship between Trump and some major industries.

  • They welcome his deregulatory stance in the main, but are troubled at times by how its executed.
  • And the auto industry, like many others, doesn't like Trump's trade wars at all.

Why it matters: California, under the Clean Air Act, has authority to impose its own pollution rules that roughly a dozen other states follow, and the state is fighting Trump's efforts to remove that discretion.

  • The industry fears a legal mess and regulatory confusion if there are different rules in different regions.

The intrigue: Automakers are in an awkward spot that they helped to create. They attacked Obama's rules, calling them too stringent, and backed Trump's move to weaken them. But now Trump's rollback goes too far for their liking.

What they're saying: The letter urges the administration to back off its freeze and seek compromise with California.

  • "[A] broadly supported final rule would provide regulatory certainty and enhance our ability to invest and innovate by avoiding an extended period of litigation and instability, which could prove as untenable as the current program," states the letter first reported by The New York Times.
  • They're also urging California officials to work with Trump.

Go deeper: Trump unsettles the auto sector

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