Keeping America Competitive

By John Boesel, president and CEO of CALSTART

September 18, 2019

There is widespread agreement within the automotive industry that we are in an unprecedented period of technological change and advancement. This advancement is due in part to the strong clean cars standards first adopted by California – standards that prompted stronger federal fuel economy rules adopted under the George W. Bush administration and strengthened and expanded under the Obama administration. The cars, trucks, and buses of the future (and by that I mean 2030) will be significantly different, more efficient, and advanced than the ones we see on the road today.

Two questions we must now ask as the Trump administration seeks to revoke California’s ability to set nation leading clean cars standards are: which nation will benefit the most from the advances in technology? And, will the advances be significant enough to address the climate crisis? These two questions are inextricably linked in the wake of the Paris Accord on climate change, Dieselgate, and the rapid improvement (and lower cost) of battery technology.

For the United States to have a chance to be a leader in the global auto industry by 2030, we need a solid partnership between government and industry. We need strong standards, incentives, and investments in infrastructure for the United States to lead and have the best chance of being one of, if not the world’s leading automotive industry employer by 2030.

In CALSTART’s 2018 confidential survey of automotive suppliers, there was a strong consensus that the existing federal light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas standards were both feasible and would encourage more innovation and investment in the United States. From the supplier perspective, there was little to no need to modify the 2025 targets established under the previous administration. The suppliers also shared the view that it would be very beneficial to have post 2025 standards in place in the 2020/21 time period.

The rollback of the standards, accompanied by the attempt to limit state’s authority to set stronger ones is counterproductive from an industry standpoint. While other nations are planning, investing, and deploying strategies to be the leading auto job providers in 2030, the administration’s efforts to slow vehicle fuel economy advancement and emission reductions will undermine our progress and hurt our chances of being global industry leaders in the years ahead.

CALSTART and our 210+ member companies will not passively accept the expected actions from the administration on this matter. We will redouble our efforts to over-turn this policy and find new ways to work with and help lead the United States automotive industry to the future that we all really want in 2030.