GM Just Flipped On (and Off) Trump

GM just flipped on the Trump administration over his emissions lawsuit with California. In a sense, it has flipped him off, too. When we last visited this drama Trump’s lawsuit sought to revoke California’s allowance to set its own emissions standards. This was mandated to California by the feds in the 1960s. There are 12 other states that follow California’s stricter requirements. Some manufacturers were in on the suit including GM. One argument is that manufacturers have to navigate two different standards; the feds and Cali’s. It’s a tough way to plan out and to build vehicles.

Trump was set on eliminating much of the Obama legacy

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks at American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Michigan with General Motors CEO Mary Barra and other auto industry executives on March 15, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

Based on the Cali standards manufacturers would have almost had to double fuel efficiency numbers by 2025. This was part of the Obama administration’s more environmentally aggressive wins. Trump was set on eliminating much of the Obama legacy. That’s not political, it’s just what he was doing. 

Five automakers positioned themselves behind California, in the expectation that at some point tougher fuel economy numbers would be sought both by the feds and consumers. This way they gained planning for what was expected rather than the possibility of a lower standard. It also gave them an additional marketing point beyond the obvious; that they were lessening America’s dependence on fossil fuels. 

But a funny thing happened. GM saw the writing on the wall and expected that the next frontier would be electric cars and trucks. So it was disingenuous trying to market zero-emission vehicles and yet be suing Cali over tougher emissions laws. After all, GM was already on a course to hit those tougher Cali numbers with its electric vehicle lines. Why sue when you’re achieving what you are suing over? 

Now, business and government work hand-in-hand achieving two goals

GM CEO Mary Barra with President-elect Joe Biden | Getty

Now with Joe Biden coming in as the next president, everyone knows his stance is for tougher environmental regulations across the board. Partly, it is for a cleaner environment. But it is also to start and expand markets that make products that are environmentally better. Selling more products means more are employed. Now, both business and government work hand-in-hand to achieve two important goals. 

It also aligns with how society views climate change. Now it is not pitting the government against the will of the people. The rigid ideology that climate change isn’t real is a battle with no winners, so what’s the point? 

“We believe the ambitious electrification goals of the President-elect, California, and GM are aligned

Los Angeles smog

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“President-elect Biden recently said, ‘I believe that we can own the 21st-century car market again by moving to electric vehicles.’ We at General Motors couldn’t agree more,” Mary Barra, the General Motors chief executive, wrote in a letter Monday. “We believe the ambitious electrification goals of the President-elect, California, and General Motors are aligned to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions. We are 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.”

And there it is. The logical and market-driven answer to the hypocritical position GM found itself in. Gas engines won’t be going away any time soon but the EV onslaught is upon us. Better to get in the parade than watching from the sidelines.