The outgoing US president Donald Trump announced last year that he wanted to litigate against California’s right to set its own car emission standards. He received support from some players in the industry, including General Motors. Now the car company has backed out.
According to a CNN report, General Motors announced in a letter to environmental groups that it would withdraw its support for the Trump government’s litigation to deprive California of the right to set its own environmental standards. Trump’s position was supported by several car companies that included GM, Toyota, Nissan and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
Other car manufacturers and states, however, sided with California, including Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen. California has had the right to adopt its own (stricter) fuel consumption and emission standards for decades. The Trump administration first weakened the fuel consumption standards passed under the Obama administration and then also wanted to withdraw the rights afforded California. On the other side, 13 other US states adopted the Californian ZEV standards or announced intentions to.
General Motors justifies the turnaround with the change in the White House. “We are confident that the Biden Administration, California, and the US auto industry, which supports 10.3 million jobs, can collaboratively find the pathway that will deliver an all-electric future,” says the letter signed by GM CEO Mary Barra, among others. “To better foster the necessary dialogue, we are immediately withdrawing from the preemption litigation and inviting other automakers to join us.”
Since this sounds more like calculation than a change of opinion, GM sent a statement from a spokesperson to follow up. This said that the company’s support for the Trump lawsuit was not about following the government’s desire to soften emissions and fuel economy standards. “Our decision to intervene in the litigation was not about siding with Trump. The decision was consistent with our desire for one national standard, which we still support,” the spokesperson said. “By withdrawing from the litigation, we hope this can better foster necessary dialogue and believe the ambitious electrification goals of the President-elect, California, and General Motors are aligned to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions.” The statement went on to say that the decision was a step in the right direction.
Last week, GM announced that it would increase its investment in electric mobility and accelerate its model plans. The all-electric Cadillac Lyriq is scheduled to be launched in early 2022 instead of late 2022, and 40 per cent of US sales are expected to be generated by electric cars by 2025.
FCA and Nissan have not responded to a request from CNN. A spokesperson for Toyota stated that “given the changing circumstances” the situation is currently being assessed.