GM chief Mary Barra discusses trade, fuel economy and EVs at Goldman Sachs

"We want to compete and we want to win based on merit”

General Motors chief Mary Barra said today her company needs a level playing field on trade with other countries, with equivalent or no tariffs in order to successfully compete in a global auto industry. She made her comments during a "Talks at GS" conversation with Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein that was carried by Yahoo Finance, a sister site to Autoblog.

On Trade, and China

Though his name never came up, Barra's comments come as President Trump continues his trade-war rhetoric and threatens to levy more tariffs on Chinese-made goods. They also come nearly two weeks after Barra and other automaker CEOs attended a meeting with Trump at the White House to discuss weakening fuel-efficiency standards and Trump once again blasted the North American Free Trade Agreement that automakers say has helped them.

"If you give us a level playing field, we want to compete and we want to win based on merit," Barra said Wednesday. "There's opportunity there to create a level playing field, which we don't have today."

Asked about Chinese tariffs that total 25 percent on vehicles shipped from the U.S., Barra added, "I'd like to see it be level. The same going back and forth, or just open up the markets and let us compete."

On Fuel Efficiency

The GM chairman and CEO also repeated her support for a single nationwide standard for fuel-efficiency standards. Currently, states like California have established their own strict standards. Barra and other automakers have lobbied the Trump administration to relax tough fuel-economy standards set by the Obama administration.

Barra said making vehicles more fuel efficient adds to their cost and has ramifications on affordability for consumers. "The thing in the auto industry that you always have to look at, is if someone can't afford a new car, they'll buy a used car. And if they buy a 5-year-old or a 10-year-old (vehicle)... it's worse for the environment. So you want to keep the more fuel efficient vehicles affordable so you can get the maximum benefit."

Elsewhere, Barra touched on a a variety of other topics:

EVs and Fuel Cell Vehicles

"We believe in an all-electric future, both battery-electric and fuel-cell electric," she said. "Fuel cell is for I'll say larger vehicles and different applications, and I think the costs of fuel cells will come down as well."

She also said GM believes in the science behind global warming.

"We have also said that our next generation, which will be out early to mid-next decade, a family of vehicles, we believe we can have profitable, desirable, attainable and range-appropriate vehicles for many many people."

Autonomous Vehicles

"We also believe that all autonomous vehicles should be electric vehicles. That's the architecture that we're using. It's not only because it does the right thing from an environmental perspective, but also from a technology perspective, you're only integrating that into one propulsion system, not two."

Her Favorite Car

"I used to be able to five the one-word answer and it was Camaro, but I'm starting to move a little to Corvette."

You can watch segments of the discussion at Yahoo Finance.

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