Major car manufacturers have written to Donald Trump warning that his plans to reverse Obama-era rules tackling pollution risk causing havoc in the industry, according to reports in US media.
The letter signed by 17 companies – including Ford, General Motors (GM), Volkswagen and Volvo – says the US president’s planned rollback on Obama-era rules threatens to bring “untenable” instability in a sector vital to the economy.
They reportedly want improved fuel economy and emissions standards.
Early on in Trump’s presidency, carmakers had argued for changes to pollution standards – but they have come to believe he is going too far and want him to go back to the drawing board.
The administration published its plan – Make Cars Great Again – last year on the Wall Street Journal’s website. It argued that Obama-era rules on exhaust-pipe emissions would cost jobs and raise prices.
The Trump proposal would freeze mileage standards at about 37 miles per gallon for cars after 2020. This would effectively abolish a 2012 rule requiring carmakers almost to double fuel economy to an average of around 54 miles per gallon by 2025.
A leaked draft assessment by the US Department of Transportation estimated that the plan would increase oil consumption by 500,000 barrels a day. The White House is thought to believe that more fuel-efficient vehicles will cost more – prompting motorists to stick with older cars, jeopardising safety and failing to reduce pollution.
GM has come under pressure from investors to take a stronger stance on fuel economy. But above all, the carmakers fear the Trump plan could provoke a backlash from individual states seeking tighter controls – and ultimately split the car market in two.
California and 13 other states are thought virtually certain to sue the administration while enforcing their own, stricter rules. Carmakers fear years of legal challenges and uncertainty in the industry.
California has already launched legal action against the federal government demanding the release of data linked to the planned rollback on emissions.
According to the New York Times, the carmakers have also written to California’s Governor Gavin Newsom calling for a compromise standard, “midway” between the Obama rules and Trump’s plan. But he has reportedly rejected the idea.
The carmakers have also raised concerns over Donald Trump’s threats to raise tariffs on imports from Europe, fearing a trade war that would raise prices for all vehicles.