WASHINGTON -- General Motors' desire to see updated federal fuel efficiency standards that are consistent with market realities and industry trends does not undercut the automaker's commitment to emissions reductions, CEO Mary Barra said in an open letter to employees.
The message comes amid increasing signs the Trump administration is preparing to propose dramatic reductions in mpg targets for 2022-25 model-year vehicles set by President Barack Obama's EPA designed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. According to multiple reports, the EPA and NHTSA favor freezing the 2020 standards through 2026 instead of sticking with incremental increases each year designed to bring fleetwide fuel efficiency to about 47 mpg, based on the latest projections.
Barra and other top auto executives are scheduled to meet President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday, where they are expected to urge a less aggressive course correction that offers more compliance flexibility without pushing California -- and a dozen other states that would follow its lead -- to break away from the national program and separately enforce their own vehicle emissions rules.
"Regardless of the outcome of these discussions, I assure you we have an absolute and unwavering commitment to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and invest in technologies to drive an all-electric future," Barra wrote. "These are the right actions for our customers, our company and our environment."
California -- which was grandfathered under the 1970 Clean Air Act, allowing it to set its own air quality rules -- and allied states represent nearly 40 percent of the passenger vehicle market. Automakers say they will face higher costs trying to sell cars tailored to two different markets or forego revenue from less-efficient vehicles in some states.
"A single, national standard would allow us to focus our resources on innovations that benefit our customers and society as we pursue our vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion, instead of diffusing resources to meet different rules within the United States," Barra told GM's workforce.
Barra began transforming GM in 2016 with a goal of becoming a leader in autonomous vehicles, electrification and transportation services. The company plans to introduce 20 new all-electric vehicle models globally by 2023 and is increasing fuel mileage for vehicles with internal combustion engines through weight reduction and technology enhancements.
GM’s support for modernizing the standards likely include integrating autonomous EVs and car-sharing into the rules as net-positives for credits. The emerging areas are two focuses for GM that were not considered when the standards were established in 2012.
"Climate change is real. We recognize the transportation sector is a contributor, and we must be part of the solution," Barra said.
GM belongs to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which filed comments with agencies supporting a review of the 2022-25 standards that included supporting material from researchers that the Union of Concerned Scientists claims are known deniers of climate change.
The UCS opposes the idea of giving automakers credits toward meeting emissions and mpg standards for deploying safety and self-driving technologies because it is uncertain whether they would actually lower emissions.
Michael Wayland contributed to this report.
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