The Republicans' election sweep means the auto industry has a shot at a fair hearing in Washington on its requests for regulatory flexibility, clarity and harmonization.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers was smart to seize on the new atmosphere to press for regulations that aren't contradictory, volatile or too aggressive to account for the long lead times of automotive product development.
But in its professed zeal to unshackle the economy from the bondage of regulation, the Trump administration should also note what the automakers didn't say.
They didn't dismiss climate change as a hoax or call for dismantling the EPA. They didn't renounce their role in combating climate change or highway fatalities. They didn't ask for a return to the great old days of sooty skies and suicide doors.
Fact is, balanced, science-based regulation is what keeps the industry in business. Consumers wouldn't trust their lives to a product that doesn't meet prevailing safety standards. Without regulation of tailpipe emissions, they would curse and forswear the automobile for fouling the air their children breathe. Without the security of basic consumer protections for buyers and borrowers, why would anyone walk into a dealership?
In this era in particular, regulation has brought out the best in the industry (except, perhaps, Volkswagen). The vehicles are getting costlier but also safer, more efficient and less expensive to operate. And the companies are getting richer and smarter.
Over the years, automakers have come to recognize that in addition to their profit motive, they have a basic social contract. In a political climate in which everything is suddenly on the table, that contract shouldn't be up for renegotiation.