Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled that existing emissions limits for passenger cars for 2022 through 2025 should remain in place.
It's a decision that is already opposed by lobbyists representing the auto industry, and possibly by the incoming Trump Administration.
Sure enough, one automaker says it has already begun talks with President-elect Donald Trump that include a request for lower emissions targets.
Ford is willing to work with Trump to keep jobs in the U.S. if his administration pursues certain policies the carmaker wants to see, CEO Mark Fields said in a recent interview with Bloomberg.
Those policies include less-strict emissions rules, as well as currency-manipulation rules, "tax reform," and clarified safety regulations for self-driving cars.
Fields said there is no market for electrified cars, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars. Its highest-volume and most profitable vehicle is the Ford F-Series line of full-size and even larger Super Duty pickup trucks.
2017 Ford Focus Electric
In the U.S., Ford currently offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Fusion mid-size sedan and C-Max tall hatchback, as well as a hybrid version of the Lincoln MKZ luxury sedan.
It also sells the all-electric Focus Electric, but only as a low-volume compliance car in certain markets deemed sufficiently friendly to electric cars.
Ford has done relatively little to promote the Focus Electric, and until the 2017 model year, it had the lowest range (73 miles) of any compact electric model on the market.
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The 2017 Focus Electric gets a boost to 115 miles of range, which makes it competitive with most other electric cars of similar size and price.
Fields is concerned that current emissions standards will force automakers to produce hybrids and electric cars they won't be able to sell, although it is the California Air Resources Board—not the EPA—that sets numeric requirements for sales of zero-emission vehicles.
A July Technical Assessment Report issued by the EPA and other regulators found that automakers could meet existing national emission standards primarily by further improving the efficiency of internal-combustion engines.
2017 Ford Fusion Energi
Despite its plans to lobby for lower emissions standards, Fields said Ford remains committed to a previous goal of spending $4.5 billion on electrified vehicles by 2020, and offering some form of electrification on 40 percent of models globally.
The word "electrified" has often been misreported as "electric": under Ford's definition, it includes not only plug-in hybrids and battery-electric cars, but also conventional hybrids and even cars equipped with expanded start-stop systems and 48-volt electrical systems.
Fields said the company acknowledges climate change as a threat (contrary to various statements by the president-elect), and wants to reduce its environmental impact.
During his campaign, Trump criticized Ford for moving some of its car production to Mexico.
Ford still plans to shift production of the Focus and C-Max from one of its Michigan plants to a new Mexican plant in 2019. A new electric car, possibly called Model E, based on the Focus platform may also be built there.
However, Ford has said it will not close the Michigan plant or cut employment there, and reports have indicated it may build pickup trucks and SUVs at the plant instead.
2017 Ford C-Max
After the election, Trump phoned Ford chairman Bill Ford to discuss reported plans to move production of the Lincoln MKC crossover from Louisville, Kentucky, to Mexico.
Trump influenced a decision to keep MKC production in Kentucky, Fields said, noting that certain policies the president-elect discussed were enticing to Ford.
Even if Ford had stuck with plans to move MKC production to Mexico, the Louisville plant would have continued building the related Ford Escape, which outsells the Lincoln by a margin of 12 to 1, according to Bloomberg.