Averting a showdown between 17 states and the federal government may take priority over industry-friendly fuel-economy targets. At least, that's what they're saying.
Reports leading up to a May 11 meeting between leaders of America's automotive industry and President Donald Trump indicate that automakers may lobby the federal government to scale back attempts to unravel the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard set in previous administrations.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra wrote a letter to GM employees May 8 posted on LinkedIn saying the automaker wouldn't quit making low-emissions vehicles.
"General Motors supports establishing one national set of fuel efficiency requirements, with flexibilities that take into consideration recent industry developments such as vehicle sharing and self-driving electric vehicles," Barra wrote.
That's in line with earlier statements Barra has made, including a speech in March at an energy conference in Houston where she said GM would push to expand federal tax credits for electric vehicles.
"One common standard allows us to advance innovation for our customers today and tomorrow," she said in March.
California and 16 other states filed a lawsuit this month against the EPA by saying the proposed rollback could violate the EPA's own Clean Air Act, and that repealing the standards set in 2009 is not based on any new research.
Under the 1970 Clean Air Act, California was allowed to set their own standards to more tightly regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Other states were allowed to follow California's standards if they chose. Legal experts have argued that the EPA would face an uphill battle by challenging the state's waiver in court.
And a protracted legal battle could fragment the market for new cars among states waiting for a court's ruling on special dispensation and states following the federal guidelines. Barra and other auto industry executives may argue that segmenting markets between states could increase manufacturing costs and hinder future product planning.
Automakers have argued that increasing buyer demand for SUVs and trucks has made meeting the CAFE standards put in place tougher to meet.
Auto industry executives are slated to meet with Trump on Friday at the White House.