WASHINGTON -- Automakers are seizing on what they see as a fresh opportunity to recast the industry's relationship with the federal government.
Within a day of Donald Trump's surprise victory last week, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers was handing the president-elect's transition team its wish list of policy priorities and calling for "a new paradigm for vehicle regulation." If those wishes come true, it could recast how autos are regulated by the federal government and provide relief from regulatory friction that the group says drives up vehicle costs.
The alliance says the industry's policy agenda hasn't changed. But its prospects for advancing that agenda have, and the response could come quickly. For the first time in a decade, a Republican president will be working with a GOP Congress -- fractured as it may be -- a clear runway that may not be available in two years.
The potential for regulatory relief goes beyond agencies such as the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In its letter, the alliance cites the full complement of agencies with roles that touch on the auto sector -- from the Federal Trade Commission to the Department of Homeland Security -- in its bold call for a presidential advisory panel that would coordinate directives from all of them.
The opportunity arises at a time when the industry least expected it.
One government-affairs executive told Automotive News that auto executives here broadly expected a Hillary Clinton victory and bet that the next administration would presumably hew close to the direction set by President Obama on big-ticket issues such as fuel economy and greenhouse-gas standards and autonomous-vehicle policy.
The prospect of a President Trump, the executive said, "was always kind of laughed off."
But now, the executive said, "it's time to kind of re-gather our thoughts on these things that the Democratic administration has been pushing the industry towards and that the industry was reluctantly moving towards."