(Adds Nissan attending, official comment on California)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, March 13 U.S. President Donald Trump
is set to formally announce a review of vehicle fuel efficiency
rules locked in at the end of the Obama administration when he
meets with automaker chiefs this week, according to two sources
briefed on the matter.
The move by Trump would be a victory for automakers after
months of pushing the new administration to reconsider the
rules, which they say would be too expensive, could cost jobs
and are out of step with vehicles consumers want to buy.
Trump will visit an autonomous vehicle testing facility in a
Detroit suburb on Wednesday and meet there with chief executives
of several U.S. automakers.
His administration has decided to review the feasibility of
the vehicle emissions rules, which apply to the years 2022
through 2025, sources told Reuters last week. Former President
Barack Obama moved to keep them in the final days of his
Reuters reported on the planned announcement on March 3. A
formal notice by U.S. regulators to restart the review is
expected to be made public on Wednesday.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday the trip is
focused on "job creation and automobile manufacturing...
highlighting the need to eliminate burdensome regulations that
needlessly hinder meaningful job growth."
The chief executives of General Motors Co, Ford Motor
Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV
will meet with the president in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan,
along with senior officials from Japanese and German automakers,
including Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co
and Daimler AG.
Trump will hold a roundtable with CEOs and then make a
speech to autoworkers and others.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had until April
2018 to decide whether the standards were feasible under a
"midterm review," but moved up its decision to a week before
Obama left office in January.
Automakers argue the vehicle emissions rules, which would
raise the fleet average fuel efficiency to more than 50 miles
per gallon (mpg) by 2025 from 27.5 mpg in 2010, will impose
significant costs and are out of step with consumer preferences.
They argue they need more flexibility to meet the rules amid low
Environmentalists, who favor the standards, say the rules
will reduce fuel costs and greenhouse gases and have vowed to
sue if the Trump administration weakens them.
Trade groups representing automakers, including General
Motors, Volkswagen AG and Toyota, have asked the EPA
to withdraw the determination finalizing the rules, which stem
from a 2011 deal the industry reached with the U.S. government.
Changing the 2022-2025 fuel rules will require a lengthy
regulatory process and environmentalists and Democratic state
attorneys general are likely to sue if the Trump administration
significantly weakens the requirements.
The Obama administration said in 2011 the changes would
boost fuel efficiency to a fleet-wide average of 54.5 mpg, save
motorists $1.7 trillion in total fuel costs over the life of the
vehicles and cost the auto industry about $200 billion over 13
years. The fuel standards were a central part of Obama's legacy
on addressing climate change.
In July, the EPA estimated the fleet would average only 50.8
mpg to 52.6 mpg in 2025 under the rules because Americans were
buying more sport utility vehicles and trucks and fewer cars.
Automakers briefed on the meeting do not expect the EPA to
take action this week to attempt to prevent California from
setting its own vehicle emissions rules. A Trump administration
official confirmed it does not intend to address California's
authority this week.
Reuters reported last week the EPA is considering taking
steps to reverse California's waiver under the Clean Air Act
that allows it to set its own vehicle greenhouse gas emissions
Trump has repeatedly met with automaker CEOs since taking
office and made boosting employment, especially in the auto
sector, a top priority.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Bill Rigby)