'Untenable': Automakers urge Trump to compromise with California on emissions

Letter urges him to give up the idea of freezing fuel economy standards

WASHINGTON — Automakers on Thursday backed a compromise on vehicle emissions aimed at heading off a confrontation between California and the Trump administration over requirements through 2026.

In a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed by 17 major automakers including General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen AG, the companies urged a compromise "midway" between the Obama era standards that require about 5% annual reductions in emissions and the Trump administration's proposal that would freeze vehicle emissions requirements at 2020 levels through 2026.

In a separate letter to President Donald Trump, they urged "both the federal government and California to resume discussions and to remain open to regulatory adjustments."

The letter called the administration's plan to go its own way "untenable" for them and said it would damage their profitability. It would, they said, trigger "an extended period of litigation and instability" as California and 13 states that follow its standard sued the federal government and maintained their own stricter restrictions, leaving the automakers to have to build to two separate standards.

Trump's administration has been on a quest to freeze the emissions standards, something the automakers have said was beyond what they had asked for, which was simply to slow the rate of increase in the standards set by the Obama administration. The administration also wants to strip California of the right to set its own standards.

"We strongly believe the best path to preserve good auto jobs and keep new vehicles affordable for more Americans is a final rule supported by all parties — including California," the letter says.

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