Regardless of whom America selects to lead the executive and legislative branches in next week's elections, there must be a greater sense of urgency among our federal officials in addressing today's needs amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and tomorrow's needs as the auto industry navigates a technological future expected to look a lot different than it does now.
As of press time, there had not been an agreement between the White House, House and Senate on the next stimulus package. There's still the possibility of a deal before Election Day, but hope is dimming as each day passes. Every day without relief is another day millions have to confront difficult decisions, such as whether they can pay their car note or cover needed repairs — much less housing and other necessities.
Looking past the pandemic, the U.S. auto industry faces other persistent issues, which Audrey LaForest writes about in this week's issue.
Trade disputes can be stabilized relatively quickly, whether President Donald Trump remains in office or challenger Joe Biden is elected. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is a win for the Trump administration and the industry, but ongoing conflicts with China and the European Union are counterproductive.
Longer term, federal officials must get on the same page regarding both electric vehicles and autonomous ones.
Trump has had the luxury of presiding during an era of low oil and fuel prices, spurring sales of high-margin light trucks. But as states such as California propose bolder steps to suppress pollution — and companies offer more compelling EVs, such as the new Hummer pickup — ownership may spread faster than projected. An inadequate charging infrastructure could stymie progress, leaving automakers hard-pressed to earn returns on gargantuan EV investments.
Even trickier is developing a federal framework for the rollout of autonomous vehicles. Attempts to make progress have stalled in the House and Senate over the last two years. We're glad to see, however, agreement on both sides of the aisle — Democrat Debbie Dingell of Michigan and the GOP's Bob Latta of Ohio — that AVs are a priority in the next session of Congress.
No question lawmakers have their work cut out for them in the age of COVID, but it's no time to ignore the auto industry.