General Motors this week fully reversed course on the question of the US state of California and its right to set its own emissions rules independent of the EPA.
On Sunday, in a letter to California governor Gavin Newsom, GM said that it officially recognizes the state’s right to set vehicle emissions regulations within its borders. This effectively ends the sort of “gray area” General Motors had entered after Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, when the automaker dropped its support for a Trump administration effort to bar California from setting its own rules without outright endorsing California’s regulatory independence. The Trump effort would have effectively neutered the California Air Resources Board, which was established in 1967 and has been allowed to set its own standards ever since.
Why Now, And Why Does It Matter?
As Reuters reports, General Motors’ endorsement of California’s right to set emissions rules makes the automaker eligible to again sell vehicles to the state government. That’s a big deal in a vast state with a population of nearly 40 million; General Motors sold $58.6 million in vehicles to the state government from 2016 through 2018. And as GM ramps up its electrification plans and California moves to completely omit fossil fuels from its transportation diet, that number could grow even larger. The state is on track to completely ban the sale of new gasoline vehicles by 2035, which coincides with GM’s own plans to stop selling internal combustion-powered light-duty vehicles by the same year.
In particular, GM’s BrightDrop commercial EV business, which has already started deliveries of the EV600 electric delivery van to FedEx, could rack up plenty of business with state governments like California’s. The recently-revealed Chevrolet Silverado EV, which will launch with a low-cost, no-frills WT (Work Truck) trim aimed at commercial customers, could also easily find its way into government fleets.
“GM is joining California in our fight for clean air and emission reduction as part of the company’s pursuit of a zero-emissions future,” governor Newsom says. “This agreement will help accelerate California’s nation-leading commitment to tackling the climate crisis.”