General Motors hasn’t finished wiping its face with its misguided decision to take down President Donald Trump’s then-failed attempt at California’s ability to set fuel efficiency standards. In a letter sent to the state governor today, the automaker said it “recognizes California’s authority to set emission standards for vehicles” under the Clean Air Act and offers itself an EV supplier for the state.
This marks a reversal of GM’s position three years ago, when it joined Fiat Chrysler and Toyota in supporting the Trump administration’s escalating battle with the state over vehicle emissions regulations.
The Clean Air Act historically allowed California to set its own emissions standards, which are stricter than federal guidelines and typically set the bar for the entire US auto industry. California is the largest auto market in the US and the 10th largest in the world.
After Trump announced his intention to roll back Obama-era fuel economy standards, California said it would go its own way and continue to maintain the earlier, stricter standards. Trump sued the state, prompting the auto industry to take sides in the legal battle.
Nearly two dozen states sued the Trump administration in response, and other major auto companies rejected the government’s attempt to roll back the fuel efficiency mandate. While GM and a few others supported Trump, Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW all sided with California.
But after Trump’s defeat, the effort was essentially unmentionable. President Joe Biden announced his own plan to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles in an effort to combat climate change — and GM rushed to get on board. Two weeks after Trump’s loss, GM withdrew its support for the lawsuit and called on other automakers to join the lawsuit.
Now the company is continuing its efforts to get on the right side of California, and it seems to be working. The state has agreed to add GM to the list of automakers that could be considered for fleet acquisitions. This is especially important as GM is releasing new electric utility vehicles such as the BrightDrop vans and the Chevy Silverado EV pickup.
“GM joins California in our fight for clean air and emissions reductions as part of the company’s commitment to a zero-emissions future,” Newsom said in a statement. “This agreement will help accelerate California’s national commitment to address the climate crisis. We welcome GM to our clean vehicle revolution.”
GM has said it will stop selling gas vehicles by 2040 and has pledged to spend $35 billion on electric and autonomous vehicles by 2025. California has said it wants to ban the sale of new combustion engine vehicles by 2035. To date, 14 other states have adopted their progressive zero-emission passenger vehicle program, which was launched in the early 1990s and has urged automakers to develop hybrid and all-electric cars.