Mr. Newsom said he is not interested in a “midway” deal requiring California to loosen its rules. “A rollback of auto emissions standards is bad for the climate and bad for the economy,” he wrote in an email. “I applaud the automakers for saying as much in their letter today to the President. We should keep working towards one national standard — one that doesn’t backtrack on the progress states like California have made.”
The letters are the latest twist in Mr. Trump’s effort to roll back regulations on auto manufacturing, an industry he has vowed to support. Some industry chief executives and lobbyists have been privately telling the White House for months that the president’s efforts may do more harm than good, but Thursday’s action represents a particularly strong pushback.
“Our thinking is, the rule is still being finalized, there is still time to develop a final rule that is good for consumers, policymakers and automakers,” said Gloria Bergquist, a vice president at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
Criticizing the president’s plan comes with risk for the automakers. The White House has courted their support for his moves, and, privately, some officials have said that they fear industry criticism could lead the president to retaliate by imposing tariffs on auto imports. That, too, could be painful, because many cars and components are now made or partly assembled across the border in Mexico or Canada.
But they also fear the costs of the uncertainty and regulatory headaches that potentially await them should Mr. Trump’s rollback go through as planned.
For example, automakers would have to demonstrate that the average mileage of all the cars they sell in California is much higher than in states like Utah, where the new Trump standard of about 37 miles per gallon would be in effect.
But because Americans increasingly prefer SUVs over thriftier vehicles, manufacturers might have to significantly cut prices on electric vehicles in the high-mileage states, a potentially money-losing proposition, while raising the prices of gas guzzlers. At the same time, auto lots in low-mileage states might hold a completely different mix of vehicles at different prices.