California Regulator Scolds Carmakers on EV Petition

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Automakers are undermining the progress they’re making in expanding the market for electric cars and other zero-emission vehicles by petitioning against California’s mandates, a state regulator said today.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month to block California’s requirement that 1.4 million electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles be sold by 2025.

“Talk about shooting yourselves in the foot, or maybe I could say, tripping over your own halo,” Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, said today at SAE International’s World Congress, an automotive engineering conference in Detroit. “Rather than rehashing the same, tired legal battles of our past, why not work together to collectively support and develop this market?”

California is requiring automakers to sell more than 1 million of the vehicles that generate little or no greenhouse-gas emissions through standards that are followed by more than a dozen states. The state last year established rising annual targets for zero-emission vehicles toward a goal of reaching 15 percent of its new-car sales by 2025.

The state regulatory agency has pushed carmakers since the 1970s to sell cleaner vehicles to reduce air pollution and has played a role in shaping automotive tailpipe standards for more than 50 years. Because of its severe smog pollution, California has retained the right to issue separate environmental standards for cars.

Sales Lagging

Compliance with California’s standards depends “almost entirely” on consumers buying “high-technology vehicles in substantial numbers,” Annemarie Pender, a spokeswoman for the Association of Global Automakers, wrote in an e-mail.

“Automakers hope that consumers will buy zero-emission vehicles in large volumes, but so far, sales have been lower than necessary to meet California’s aspirational goals,” Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, wrote in an e-mail. “It serves no one, not the state economy or consumers or automakers, to have these vehicles sit unsold on dealer lots.”

California, the largest U.S. auto market, is requiring General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC, Toyota Motor Corp. Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. to sell a combined 60,000 plug-in, battery-electric and fuel-cell cars in the state through 2014.

By 2018, the state’s zero-emission vehicle rules will extend to Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Mazda Motor Corp.

GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW, Mazda and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz are all members of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

The Association of Global Automakers, also based in Washington, counts Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia among its members.