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Washington — President Donald Trump continued his tirade Wednesday against Ford Motor Co., which was among four automakers that have rebuked his administration's effort to roll back gas-mileage standards by joining an agreement on mpg rules with California.

In a tweet that misidentified the founder of General Motors, Trump said the "legendary Henry Ford and Alfred P. Sloan, the Founders of Ford Motor Company and General Motors, are 'rolling over' at the weakness of current car company executives willing to spend more money on a car that is not as safe or good, and cost $3,000 more to consumers. Crazy!"

"Henry Ford would be very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants wanting to build a much more expensive car,  that is far less safe and doesn't work as well, because execs don't want to fight California regulators," he continued.

"Car companies should know that when this Administration's alternative is no longer available, California will squeeze them to a point of business ruin."

The president's anger was directed at a pact negotiated directly between the California Air Resources Board and Ford, Volkswagen AG, Honda Motor Co. and BMW AG that calls for carmakers to voluntarily increase the average fuel economy of their fleets to about 50 miles per gallon by the end of the 2026 model year.

The move by the carmakers comes in the face of the Trump administration's two-year push to freeze fuel-mileage rules at about 39 mpg for model years 2021 to 2026. The White House has also pushed to revoke a longstanding waiver allowing California and other states to set their own stricter auto emissions standards. 

In a statement Wednesday night responding at the president's tweets, Ford said it has it has "consistently supported one 50-state solution" for fuel economy standards.

“As the No. 1 producer of vehicles in America, Ford is proud to lead the way in taking the right actions for the environment while at the same time protecting consumer affordability and the short- and long-term health of the industry," the automaker said. "We have consistently supported one 50-state solution for regulating fuel economy standards, and this agreement with California provides regulatory stability while reducing CO2 more than complying with two different standards. As always, we will continue to produce  even cleaner, smarter and safer vehicles.”

The president earlier Wednesday had lashed out at what he called "foolish" and "politically correct" carmakers.

"My proposal to the politically correct Automobile Companies would lower the average price of a car to consumers by more than $3000, while at the same time making the cars substantially safer," Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. "Engines would run smoother. Very little impact on the environment! Foolish executives!" 

Honda declined comment earlier in the day, and Volkswagen and BMW did not respond to requests for comment.

The Trump administration has stated in a legally required notice that the less stringent mpg proposal would save car owners $2,340 over the life of owning new vehicles. The figure, rounded up Wednesday by Trump, has been widely discredited by environmental and consumer advocacy groups that argue the Obama-era rules would save drivers at the pump. 

The four carmakers agreed to increase the average fuel economy of their fleets from 2021 levels by 3.7% per year, reaching an average of nearly 50 mpg by 2026. If the Trump administration is successful in its effort to roll back the Obama-era mpg standards, other automakers would be bound by less restrictive federal rules. 

Democratic lawmakers in Washington have pressured GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and a dozen other automakers to join rebuke the Trump administration's effort to roll back gas-mileage standards and join the agreement with California. 

"As representatives of states that signed the Nation’s Clean Car Promise, we believe that General Motors joining this agreement would save consumers money, reduce emissions, and provide regulatory certainty to the auto industry,"  a group of 30 U.S. senators wrote in a letter to GM CEO Mary Barra that was released as an example. 

"In the absence of an agreement between the Federal government and states, the California agreement is a commonsense framework that provides flexibility to the industry to meet tailpipe standards while also taking important steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money on fuel for consumers," the letter, spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., continued.

Letters were set to the heads of Aston Martin, Fiat Chrysler, GM, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Toyota and Volvo.

Absent from the list of 30 senators — all Democrats — were Michigan U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township. 

The White House has dismissed the agreement between the automakers and California as "a PR stunt." Other automakers have been pressured by both sides to either join or resist the deal. 

The Trump administration has argued that stringent mpg standards would raise the price of vehicles, making drivers more likely to keep their older, less fuel efficient vehicles. The average age of a car on U.S. roads is currently 11.8 years old, according a June 2019 study conducted by business information provider IHS Markit. The average price of a new car in July was $37,169, according to Kelley Blue Book. 

The Trump administration announced last year its intention to ease stringent gas-mileage rules that would have required fleets averaging nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025. The administration proposed a freeze in the mandate after 2020, touching off a fierce battle with California, which helped craft the Obama-era rules.

The two sides attempted to negotiate a potential agreement, but the White House said in February it was pulling out of the talks and moving forward with its proposed freeze. 

Rebecca Lindland, founder of RebeccaDrives.com, an auto-industry and car review website, said both sides need to realize the importance of having one set of rules for cars that are sold across the country. 

"Fuel economy standards need to be a combination of market realities, environmental realities, economic realities and technological realities," she said. "Just because a certain type of vehicle suits Southern California or the coastal part of California, that doesn't mean it's going to everywhere... We need one standard, but we also need a standard that's going to reflect consumer wants and needs."

klaing@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing

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