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Trump attacks Ford Motor for not backing fuel economy rollback

Carmaker says it is focused on affordability while acting to protect the environment

Washington

US President Donald Trump stepped up a series of attacks on carmakers on Wednesday for not backing his administration's plan to roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency rules, singling out Ford Motor Co in particular for backing a deal with California for stricter fuel economy standards.

Ford is one of four carmakers - along with Honda Motor Co, BMW AG and Volkswagen AG - that reached a voluntary agreement with California on fuel efficiency rules, defying Mr Trump and his administration's effort to strip the state of the right to fight climate change by setting its own standards.

The rules under the California plan are looser than the Obama-era regulations but stricter than what the Trump administration has proposed.

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Mr Trump said that company founder 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".

Ford said in a statement that it is focused on acting to protect the environment while also protecting the affordability of vehicles. "This agreement with California provides regulatory stability while reducing CO2 (carbon dioxide) more than complying with two different standards," it said.

There is no evidence that existing fuel economy rules would degrade vehicle performance. And environmentalists and many states challenge Mr Trump's assertion that his administration's proposed rule would boost vehicle safety or dramatically reduce the price of vehicles - and argue that consumers will save more in reduced fuel costs under the Obama rules.

California attorney general Xavier Becerra responded to Mr Trump's attacks on carmakers saying that it would result in an additional 540 million tonnes of greenhouse gases and other harms. "This doesn't look like a better alternative to us," he said.

The White House has urged other carmakers not to back the California agreement, while Democrats have been calling and writing to carmakers urging them to sign on with California. The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday ridiculed the voluntary framework, which it said "so far has been nothing more than a press release".

Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, representing General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp, Ford, Volkswagen and others, said that the companies "look forward to seeing a final rule soon", adding: "We support increases to standards that optimise all the priorities, including affordability so more Americans can buy a new car, plus preserving jobs and safety at the same time."

GM has not backed the voluntary agreement, arguing that it does not properly credit the company's electric vehicles. Even so, Mr Trump tweeted that the founders of Ford and GM "are 'rolling over' at the weakness of current car company executives" over the fuel rules, adding: "Crazy!"

GM said late on Wednesday that the company is "continuously improving fuel economy" and is focused on "working with all parties on a solution that would involve a 50-state solution and a national electric vehicle program".

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said that Mr Trump's tweet was completely untrue. "Trump's rollback is unravelling from every corner," he said. All major carmakers are on record saying that they oppose the administration's "preferred option" announced in August 2018, which would freeze fuel economy requirements at 2020 levels through 2026. REUTERS