Trump will offer boost for carmakers today

Melissa Burden, and Melissa Nann Burke

President Donald J. Trump will tell autoworkers and car executives in a Wednesday speech outside Detroit that his administration is reopening an automaker-requested review of a strict fuel economy mandate, a senior White House official said.

The Trump official said the administration plans to spend the next year reviewing data and will set gas mileage standards in 2018 that are technically and economically realistic and would allow automakers to continue growing and adding jobs.

The declaration from Trump will pull back the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision in January under the Obama administration to move forward the fuel economy requirement of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The official said the National Highway Safety Administration would be more of a partner in the review than it had been under President Barack Obama. The EPA finalized the mileage rules, which were originally set to be reviewed for their feasibility by April 2018, a week before Trump took office.

The bureaucratic move does not relax the fuel economy standards that exist on the books. But environmentalists and many Democrats want Obama’s finalized mileage standard to stick.

The announcement is expected to be witnessed by hundreds of autoworkers from General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Co. near the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run.

GM confirmed it will bus a few hundred hourly UAW and salaried workers from southeast Michigan sites such as its Renaissance Center headquarters, Warren Tech Center and Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant. It also will showcase its 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, a pure electric car, and the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric that is made at Detroit-Hamtramck, in a display of U.S.-made vehicles.

A Ford spokeswoman said Tuesday that it also will bus a large group of hourly and salaried workers to attend the president’s speech. Ford President and CEO Mark Fields will attend the president’s event, and the Dearborn automaker plans to showcase the Ford Mustang and F-150.

A Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday the company will bus hundreds of hourly and salaried employees from 10 Southeast locations including its U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills and manufacturing plants. The automaker sought volunteers who will be paid for their time, the spokeswoman said.

The White House confirmed earlier this week that Trump would talk up his priorities of bolstering the manufacturing industry and reducing burdensome regulation.

The president is expected to tour the vehicle display and will meet separately with a group of automaker CEOs and senior executives at Willow Run ahead of his speech, according to two sources familiar with the plans. UAW President Dennis Williams will attend the meetings with Trump and the CEOs, the union confirmed.

Trump on Wednesday morning tweeted that he would be traveling to "Detroit, Michigan (love), today for a big meeting on bringing back car production to State & U.S. Already happening!"

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that Trump will meet with auto executives and workers in Michigan and discuss how his plans for “rolling back federal red tape will lead to more American jobs and higher wages, specifically in the automobile sector.”

“It’s a great opportunity for the president to showcase moves he’s already made toward his ambitious ‘Buy America, Hire America’ agenda, like encouraging investment in workforce training and development, so Americans are ready for the jobs of the future, and removing the roadblocks that prevent American businesses from staying and expanding here in the United States,” Spicer said.

“The president hopes to build on the great optimism that he has built within the business community in anticipation of the renewed opportunities the president’s economic agenda has already created.”

The White House has not confirmed other details of the president’s visit, which is his first to Michigan since he took office in January.

Other top automaker executives are expected to attend the event, including GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra; Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne; Nissan North America Chairman Jose Munoz; and Hyundai Motor America Acting President and CEO Jerry Flannery. Toyota Motor Corp. said a high-level North American executive will attend.

Trump has criticized automakers including Ford and GM for building vehicles in Mexico. He has blamed the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals for manufacturing job losses in the United States.

Gov. Rick 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. But the governor’s office did not respond when asked if Snyder would join Trump at the meeting with auto company executives prior to the president’s speech, deferring to the White House on scheduling details.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Attorney General Bill Schuette are expected at the Trump event as well. A spokesman for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said she does not plan to be there.

Some members of the Michigan delegation turned down an invitation to the event because they had to be in Washington for votes in Congress.

Trump has been working to reverse many Obama-era regulations since taking office, and his EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation are widely expected to reconsider the greenhouse gas emission standards.

Automakers have asked the Trump administration for the mid-term review of fuel economy mandates, but have not sought to rescind or change the underlying fuel-economy rules. They say the technology would add cost to vehicles and that Americans are buying more trucks and SUVs and are less interested in electric vehicles.

In their letter, the automakers also asked the administration to “harmonize” sometimes conflicting federal requirements between the EPA and Transportation Department.

Staff Writers Jonathan Oosting and Ian Thibodeau contributed.