In a letter to the leaders of various environmental groups sent November 24, CEO Mary Barra announced that General Motors Co. was switching sides in the struggle to define U.S. auto efficiency standards.
The letter, addressed to CEOs, Presidents, and Executive Directors of the Center for Biological Diversity, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club, among others, said GM would remove its support for the EPA’s rollback on efficiency limits and commit to “an all-electric, zero emission future.”
“We believe the ambitious electrification goals of the President-electi, California, and General Motors are aligned to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions,” wrote Barra.
The move to support stricter efficiency standards comes after GM said it would boost its spending in electric and autonomous vehicles by $7 billion and President-elect Joe Biden pledged his support for moving to electric vehicles
According to the Detroit Free Press, President-elect Biden spoke with Barra and UAW President Rory Gamble last week about his “Build Back Better” plan, which involves plans to expand vehicle electrification, install new charging stations, and support EV manufacturers.
“Given this shared enthusiasm and the President-elect’s call to bring the country back together, we believe there is now a path to achieve agreement on a national standard and complementary policies to accelerate the electrification of the light-duty transportation sector,” wrote Barra.
When the EPA rolled federal fuel-efficiency standards back to a 1.5% annual increase in efficiency through 2026 and sought to eliminate the ability of California regulators to set their own, stricter standards, GM initially sided with the federal government against the California regulators.
Twenty-two other states in the union also adopt Californian efficiency standards, and there was fear among auto manufacturers that the EPA-CARB conflict could lead to a split-standards system, where one state has different automotive regulations than another, which would complicate auto manufacturer operations. California alone, according to Reuters, accounts for more than 10% of all U.S. car sales.
As the legal scuffle between the EPA and CARB heated up, GM, along with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Toyota Motor Corp., signed on in support of preemption litigation that would formally strip CARB of the right to pass its own emissions regulations originally granted to the state by the Clean Air Act of 1970. In her letter, Barra said GM would immediately withdraw its support for that litigation and encouraged other automakers to do so as well.
BMW AG, Ford Motor Co., Volkswagen AG, and Volvo Cars all signed an agreement in August to abide by Californian regulatory standards. General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota held out on signing the agreements and sided with the EPA instead.
In a statement, Joe Biden said GM’s move would “have a positive ripple effect” in allowing U.S. automakers to compete abroad, create jobs, and “reclaim our place as leaders in innovation and manufacturing.”
In a comment reported by Reuters, EPA spokesman James Hewitt quipped, “it’s always interesting to see the changing positions of U.S. corporations.”