Ford, Honda Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG had sided with California on an agreement to voluntarily reduce vehicle emissions. Both camps argued their move was more likely to bring about a unified standard for greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy — a largely agreed-upon goal that would make it easier for automakers to produce vehicles that can be sold in any market across the country.
“The Biden Administration will not let the Trump standards stand, and either by way of litigation and/or a regulatory reboot, the new team will move in a different, more stringent direction. And they will do so with California integrated in the effort, whether that is formal or informal,” Galhotra wrote.
“Understanding that we all bring our own perspectives to the table, we would like to urge companies to actively consider embracing the California framework,” the letter states. “Given the outcome of the election, and the pressing issues that extend beyond fuel economy and the scope of these standards, it would be an enormous value for the industry to be able to pivot quickly and move forward with a single standard.”
“From the beginning we’ve said that our agreement with California is the best path forward for the environment, our customers and the short and long-term health of the auto industry,” Ford spokeswoman Rachel McCleery said in a statement. She declined to comment directly on the letter, but said the automaker’s agreement with California “should be the foundation for new regulations as the Biden administration considers stronger fuel economy standards in 2021.”
Ford CEO Jim Farley, speaking Nov. 13 during a Reuters automotive summit, said: “We have to have a single standard. We’ve lived in the past with multiple standards, and it’s a nightmare for the customers, for the companies.”
The News reached out to GM and FCA for comment Monday but did not immediately hear back. Toyota declined to comment.
The industrywide discussion around uniform standards comes as automakers invest heavily in electrification. Ford has committed to investing $11.5 billion in electric-vehicle development by 2022.
GM has laid out an ambitious EV agenda: the automaker recently announced it will spend $27 billion through 2025 on autonomous and electric vehicle technology, up from the previously-announced $20 billion. It will offer 30 all-electric models globally by mid-decade, and has said its entire lineup will one day be electric as part of its bid to achieve zero emissions.
While Ford’s letter may on its face be a bid for unity, it may also be “a case of reality,” said Brett Smith, technology director at the Center for Automotive Research. Soon, California regulators and federal regulators will be much more aligned, and “it makes sense to realize the game has changed a little bit and it’s probably worth offering carrots instead of sticks.”
“There are some pretty big challenges ahead in terms of policy,” Smith said. “Being proactive and positive will probably be more effective than being reactive and negative.”
“It makes sense,” Smith said. “Who is the person in this industry that can make a stand?”
The Sacramento Bee, for one, published an editorial last week making the case that GM is not that voice. The paper lampooned the Detroit automaker for siding with Trump only to abandon him when it was clear a change in administration was ahead, comparing it to one of those jumping from the fading Trump presidency “like rats from a doomed ship.”