President Donald J. Trump is expected Wednesday to reopen a review of Obama-era fuel economy rules when he visits near the future testing site for self-driving vehicles at Willow Run, according to sources familiar with his plans.
The White House hasn’t confirmed the details, but Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Monday said Trump would meet with auto executives and workers in Michigan, “highlighting the need to eliminate burdensome regulations that needlessly hinder meaningful job growth.”
Gov. Rick Snyder plans to meet and greet Trump on Wednesday. Snyder had been scheduled to speak at a cybersecurity conference in Washington D.C., but will instead stay in Michigan for the president’s visit, according to his office.
Several top automaker executives are expected to attend the event in Ypsilanti Township, where U.S.-made vehicles will be on display from several auto companies, according to sources familiar with the program.
Trump has been working to reverse many Obama-era regulations since taking office, and his Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation are widely expected to reconsider the greenhouse gas emission standards.
The Obama administration in its waning days locked in standards requiring automakers to produce car and truck fleets averaging 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
The automakers signed off on the levels in 2011 in part because the mid-term evaluation would ensure the standards were appropriate based on market conditions. The companies now say they’re too costly, especially since smaller and electric vehicles aren’t selling well.
The industry has asked the Trump administration to reinstate the review of fuel economy regulations, saying the Obama administration acted prematurely in cutting the review short a year ahead of the April 2018 deadline.
Environmental groups object to weakening the standards, citing climate and consumer protections. Dan Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign says reopening the review of fuel economy rule could lead to a legal fight with California and 12 other states that have stricter standards for fuel efficiency.
“The automakers want the Trump administration to unravel the clean-car rules,” Becker said last week. “If they succeed, we’ll pay more at the pump and depend more on oil from bad countries, and pollute our kids’ air.”
A group of higher-ranking auto executives are planning to attend Trump’s appearance. General Motors Co. confirmed Monday that Chairman and CEO Mary Barra will attend the president’s event. She sits on a group of executives who is advising Trump on economic and policy issues.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne and Nissan North America Chairman Jose Munoz are slated to attend.
“We look forward to the opportunity to participate in this week’s discussion and share Nissan’s vision for a strong U.S. automotive industry,” the Japanese automaker said in a statement.
A high-level American executive from Toyota Motor Corp. also will attend. The Japanese automaker said it is pleased to be included in and intends to showcase some of its vehicles.
“We look forward to showing President Trump the U.S.-built Camry, made in Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant, our largest in the world,” Toyota said in a statement.
Also, from Hyundai, acting President and CEO Jerry Flannery will be there.
The company noted that the Camry is considered by Cars.com to be the No. 1 “Most American-made” car, based on its U.S.-sold domestic content. Trump has criticized U.S. automakers for making cars in Mexico and importing them into the United States.
Ford Motor Co. declined to comment on whether its executive would be at the Trump event. Ford President and CEO Mark Fields is part of a manufacturing executive group that has met with the president.
Trump is expected to give remarks near the developing American Center for Mobility, which is being built on the 355-acre Willow Run site under a public-private partnership. Officials broke ground in November, and construction is expected to wrap up by year’s end.
The federal Transportation Department has designated the site a “proving ground” for testing validating and certifying the emerging connected and self-driving vehicle technologies. This month, both Republicans and Democrats in Michigan’s congressional delegation asked the Trump administration to budget $200 million for autonomous vehicle research — the same level as requested for the 2017 budget.
“I think it’s great that he’s coming,” Gov. Rick Snyder said of Trump’s visit. “Hopefully, it’s a great way to highlight intelligent vehicles and autonomous vehicles in particular.”
Snyder also said he would underscore with Trump the importance of the North American Free Trade Agreement to Michigan. NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada are the state’s two biggest export markets.
“We’ve seen a growth in trade. Ontario is our biggest trading partner. Canada’s our biggest trading partner,” Snyder said at a Monday news conference with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“We want to see that continue. So, we need to be very thoughtful in terms of talking about trade issues, and I’m going to encourage that to be a growing, positive relationship between the two countries.”
Staff writers Christine Ferretti, Ian Thibodeau and Jonathan Oosting contributed.