Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields asked President Donald Trump last month for relief on strict Obama-era fuel economy mandates, claiming "various studies" say 1 million jobs are at risk if the regulations aren't relaxed.
But independent industry analysts and environmental groups argue that figure is unrealistic and that Fields cherry-picked a worst-case scenario from a dubious report.
Fields, along with General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne, had met with Trump at the White House on Jan. 24.
Fields revealed the details of the discussion with the president during a question-and-answer session at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans, but he did not cite which studies he was referring to.
"The point that we made, as a group, on regulations and fuel economy and one national standard, we were not advocating for getting rid of the standards," Fields said. "We think having one national standard for fuel economy is really important. And we said, various studies have said up to 1 million jobs could be at risk if we're not given some level of flexibility on that and aligning with market realities, so that really resonated with him."
Fields has been lobbying for relief from corporate average fuel economy standards because of a lag in demand for small cars and continued low gasoline prices -- two factors not taken into account when the standards were announced in 2011.
Last week, Ford referred to a statement by the Auto Alliance, which represents 12 automakers, that called the EPA's decision late last year to not relax the standards "disappointing."
A Ford spokeswoman later said that Fields' 1 million-jobs figure was based on a September report by the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The study does say 1 million jobs -- 1.13 million, to be exact -- could be lost, but its findings have been heavily criticized for using inflated data and overlooking a number of factors.
"It's a particular case taken with a particular set of assumptions that ends in an extreme result," said Alan Baum, principal of automotive forecasting firm Baum & Associates.