With the outcome of the U.S. presidential election clear and Joe Biden set to be inaugurated Jan. 20, the auto industry should be able to once again enjoy at least one thing it took for granted before 2016: the ability to plan.
President Donald Trump's combative style unsettled the industry numerous times over the last four years, including launching unnecessary trade wars as well as a divisive battle over fuel economy standards and emissions.
On trade, one presumes that the new administration will take a methodical and multilateral approach that restores a sense of normalcy. That alone should give automakers some needed predictability.
But on the environment, more work will be needed to get the U.S. back on track. Trump pledged to eliminate what he called "job killing" regulations — and vehicle emissions rules would be high on the list.
Make no mistake: The industry benefited at the bottom line, selling more trucks at record prices with record profits — but it isn't sustainable.
We live on a planet that is warming at a dangerous rate, and the global auto industry has a major role to play in fixing the problem. The federal government needs to help the industry move in the right direction, and now's the time to figure out how to do it best.
The industry — after years of scientific research and innovation — is at the precipice of a sustainable, dramatic shift to electric vehicles. Automakers should be able to follow Mary Barra's strategy of funding technologies of the future with the pickup profits of today. But to do so, they need help at the federal level to be able to plan and to lean into innovation.
It will be up to the Biden administration to lay out a regulatory road map that carries the industry beyond 2025, one that sets a single national standard for vehicle emissions that all states — including California — can support. That plan should improve taxpayer support for cleaner technologies and the build-out of charging infrastructure to make EVs a viable option for more U.S. consumers.
Leaders in this industry know the dangers of global warming, and they know the benefits of global scale. Give them and their teams the ability to plan for the future of transportation, and they will deliver.