Toyota, General Motors side with Trump administration in emissions lawsuit

Kia, General Motors, and other top foreign and American car companies are backing the Trump administration in an ongoing lawsuit with California over fuel economy standards — a new move that splits the auto industry.

The Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation, a group backed by General Motors, Toyota North America and several leading foreign car manufacturers, filed the motion to intervene on behalf of the Trump administration Monday, arguing that doing so supports a call for one national emissions standard.

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“Since 2010, America has had a unified fuel economy in greenhouse gas emission and programs on improved fuel efficiency. Recent federal and California rulemakings have threatened to end this balanced approach, creating uncertainty for consumers. Facing this problem, we had an obligation to intervene,” John Bozzella, president and CEO of Global Automakers and a spokesperson for the coalition, said on a call with reporters.

The filing supports the Trump administration in a lawsuit brought by California and 22 other states in September that challenges the federal government’s authority to revoke a pollution waiver that allowed the state to set more stringent tailpipe emissions standards than those established federally. California argues it has the right under the Clean Air Act.

The car manufacturers' filing runs in direct contrast to four other leading automakers — Honda, Volkswagen, Ford and BMW of North America — that in July entered into a direct agreement with the state of California to manufacture cars with higher fuel efficiency.

The announcement followed halted talks with the Trump administration over a potential united rule. The Trump administration has since threatened to withhold highway funding over the move. In September, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it was revoking California’s waiver entirely.

The automotive coalition argued that while it supported California and the other states in their desire for emissions standards to increase “year over year,” it also supported the Trump administration in its desire to keep one national emissions standard, which it argued California was moving to end.

“Historically, the industry has taken the position that federal government is the sole purview of fuel economy,” said Bozzella of Global Automakers, which lobbies for companies including Nissan, Hyundai and Kia.

“In 2010 we agreed, all the parties, federal agencies, the state of California, we agreed on one national program. California stepped away from that national program. There were no negotiations between California and the federal government that resolved that split,” Bozzella said, placing the onus on the state.

California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Health Care: Democratic group to only endorse AG candidates who back abortion rights | Protect Our Care launches seven-figure ad buy to boost vulnerable Dems | California sues Juul California sues Juul for allegedly marketing to young people Overnight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks MORE said the autogroup's filing did not affect the purpose of the state's lawsuit.

“This doesn’t change our resolve to protect the health of our families and our gains tackling dirty air. The courts have upheld our authority to set strong clean car standards before. We move forward," he said in a statement.

Bozzella said the industry’s decision to back the Trump administration was aimed to keep automakers at the “table” and is not an indicator of support on Trump’s yet-to-be-announced final emissions standard.

“The governments have moved this into the courthouse, and we're obligated on behalf of our customers and our employees and our shareholders to follow that discussion into the courthouse,” he said.

“We haven’t reached the question of what side we're taking with the stringency of the standards. This is making sure we have a seat at the table with the new venue of this litigation,” he added.

This story was updated