On Monday, General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced that GM would no longer litigate against California’s car emission standards and instead join the state and the Biden Administration in embracing the tougher standards.
Since September of last year, GM, along with Toyota and Fiat Chrysler, have sided with the Trump administration in backing a uniform federal emissions standards rather than having states, such as California, having differing, tougher standards. President Trump and the EPA attempted to revoke California’s standards in September of 2019, only for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to sue the EPA only days afterwards. By October, car companies had largely settled on whether they supported the Federal standards or the California standards, leading to many Californian lawmakers to speak out against the brewing battle.
In December 2019, the Trump administration tried to remove the lawsuit, only for it to be tied up in litigation going into 2020. However, with the Biden administration now transferring in, GM had switched on their position as Biden has made electric vehicles and lowering car emissions a priority once in office in January.
“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,” said Barra in a letter to environmental groups. “To better foster the necessary dialogue, we are immediately withdrawing from the preemption litigation and inviting other automakers to join us.
“The ambitious electrification goals of the president-elect, California, and General Motors are aligned, to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions. I’m confident that the Biden Administration, California, and the U.S. auto industry, which supports 10.3 million jobs, can collaboratively find the pathway that will deliver an all-electric future.”
In a statement, President-elect Joe Biden said that he supported GM’s decision.
“GM’s decision reinforces how shortsighted the Trump Administration’s efforts to erode American ingenuity and America’s defenses against the climate threat truly are,” said Biden on Monday.
Many unsure of GM’s decision
However, many industry analysts are more hesitant to approve the decision.
“Electric Vehicles are quickly becoming a huge part of the marketplace,” noted Michigan-based auto industry analyst Kevin Pullman to the Globe. “But we have to remember that we are in a recession right now. We can’t go too big, too fast. California Governor Newsom literally gave the state 15 years to stop selling most gas-powered cars. A lot can happen in 15 years. It would have made more sense in a tier system, or one where it slowly moves up to that point.
“And now with GM siding on the emissions, we’ll need to see how car companies will react to different emissions standards. Biden could make all cars in the U.S. on California’s level of standards. Or other states get higher. Somewhere, some states will be screwed on it and have to adapt quickly. The environment is important. Climate change is important. But they’re trying to do so much at once, and we can’t foresee all the consequences. We’re only looking at the benefits.
“GM is also playing favorites here and siding with Biden, California, and others in that camp on emissions to be in their good graces. Especially when things like governmental contracts come up. This has been largely unspoken. The U.S. government has to buy and use American whenever possible, and with Tesla growing, it would be a huge blow if Detroit-based GM or Ford lose out to California-based Tesla. That’s the big thing. None of the Detroit companies want to lose their status as the American car to Tesla.
“It’s really just GM trying to get in Biden’s good graces here.”
Other car companies are expected to switch to a Biden/California emissions system in the near future. Changes to the federal emissions system are expected sometime in 2021 according to automotive experts.