It’s 2017, and every car company on Planet Earth knows that the future of automobiles is electric. (Well, nearly every car company. Looking at you, Mazda.)
But here’s the funny thing: while many of us are eager to see a future full of battery-powered EVs and even fuel-cell vehicles, car companies understand that the switch to those technologies will be gradual. During the next 20, 30, or perhaps 50 years, electric cars will be sold alongside their combustion-engined kin.
And so, while many cities, states, and countries are beefing up eco-friendly regulations to speed the arrival of zero-emission vehicles, automakers are lawyering up to ensure that there’s still room on the road for gas and diesel models. (It will come as a huge surprise to 0.00% of you to learn that those legal and lobbying efforts have ramped up dramatically since Donald Trump moved into the White House.)
After inauguration, CEOs from GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler met with Trump and reportedly discussed [new emissions] standards; on February 10, CEOs from 18 global car companies sent a letter to Trump opposing the standards. Later in February, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Global Automakers, another trade group, wrote to the new EPA head Scott Pruitt asking him to repeal finalization of the standards. Shortly after that–and a legal petition from the groups–the EPA announced that it would withdraw finalization of the standards. The trade groups also pushed for California to “harmonize” its more stringent standards with federal standards, and advocated against Obama-era emissions standards for light-duty vehicles.
Some automakers have also individually advocated for weaker fuel economy standards, at the same time that they voice public support for climate action. Ford argued that the standards would reduce the affordability of new vehicles. But at the same time, after Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change, Ford chairman Bill Ford said that the company believes “climate change is real, and remains deeply committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our vehicles and our facilities.”