WASHINGTON — General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and 10 smaller automakers are siding with the Trump administration in a lawsuit over whether California has the right to set its own greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards.
The companies said Monday they will intervene in a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Defense Fund against the administration, which is planning to roll back national pollution and gas mileage standards enacted while Barack Obama was president.
The group calls itself the “Coalition or Sustainable Automotive Regulation” and includes Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Isuzu, Suzuki, Maserati, McLaren, Aston-Martin and Ferrari.
“With our industry facing the possibility of multiple, overlapping and inconsistent standards that drive up costs and penalize consumers, we had an obligation to intervene,” said John Bozzella, CEO of Global Automakers and spokesman for the coalition.
The move puts the automakers at odds with four other companies — BMW, Ford, Volkswagen and Honda — which have decided to back California and endorse stricter emissions and fuel economy standards than Trump has proposed.
But the coalition’s stance is not so straightforward. For instance, although it opposes California’s right to set standards, it still wants President Donald Trump and the state to compromise on one national regulation.
Trump has proposed freezing the Obama-era standards at 2021 levels.
“There’s a middle ground that supports year-over-year increases in fuel economy,” and promotes electric cars and innovation, Bozzella said.
Automakers are taking sides because they want to know what regulations they’ll have to obey as they develop vehicles for future model years, said Alan Baum, a Detroit-area consultant who does work for the auto industry and environmental groups.
But they’re carefully trying not to antagonize customers who are for or against Trump, and they don’t want to alienate Wall Street investors who are against investing in technology that may not generate returns for several years, he said.
In September, Trump announced his administration would seek to revoke California’s congressionally granted authority to set standards that are stricter than those issued by federal regulators.
The move came after Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen signed a deal with the California Air Resources Board, the state’s air pollution regulator, which had been at odds with the Trump administration for months.