When a group of 17 of the world’s largest automakers sent a letter to President Donald Trump on June 6 asking him to compromise with California on vehicle-emission standards, one company was notably absent from the list of signatories: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
That holdout stance is not atypical for the automaker, known for its Jeep SUVs, beefy pickup trucks and Italian sports cars. Most automakers have called for tapping the brakes by making adjustments to national fuel-economy and emissions standards in light of low gasoline prices and soaring SUV sales. But Fiat Chrysler’s public comments hew closer to the Trump administration’s reverse shift on Obama-era regulations.
“They are looking out for their own best interest, as every company and every person does at the end of the day,” said Brett Smith, director of propulsion technology and energy infrastructure at the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research.
General Motors Co. suggested a national mandate for electric vehicles in 2021 in its written comments to regulators. Honda Motor Co. called for “strong 2025 targets” and said it did not support a Trump administration proposal to freeze the standards. Ford Motor Co.’s top executives said publicly they “support increasing clean-car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.”
In its written comments submitted to regulators last year, Fiat Chrysler said it agrees with one of the Trump administration’s central arguments: Stricter fuel-efficiency mandates drive up new vehicle prices, keeping older, dirtier and less-safe cars on the road longer. It said this could undermine the very air quality and safety benefits the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rules aim to deliver.
The EPA and NHTSA are preparing a final rule now that could differ from the post-2020 freeze the agencies recommended last year.
“Our support for one national program and the mid-term evaluation remains unchanged,” Fiat Chrysler said in an emailed statement last week after its peers’ letter became public. “It was made clear when we were one of just two automakers to testify last September at hearings held by the EPA and NHTSA.”
When the Trump administration proposed stripping California of its authority to limit tailpipe greenhouse-gas emissions last August, Fiat Chrysler made one of the industry’s strongest public endorsements of the federal government’s right to do so.
“It remains our hope that conflicts over preemption will be avoided by an agreement,” the automaker wrote in comments submitted to the government last October. “However, in the absence of such an agreement, FCA agrees that the law gives the federal government the authority to preempt state standards that are directly related to fuel economy.”