Regardless of where your political allegiances lie, Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House could alter how automakers design their upcoming vehicles, particularly when it comes to high performance models sold in North America.
Both during the campaign and post-election, Trump has made the American auto industry a focal point of concern under the auspice of bringing jobs that have been sent elsewhere by General Motors, Ford, and FCA back onto American soil.
“I want new plants to be built here for cars sold here!” Trump tweeted early Tuesday ahead of his meeting with GM’s Mary Barra, Ford’s Mark Fields, and FCA’s Sergio Marchionne. Trump’s meeting with those executives was said to have covered a wide array of topics, with GM’s Mary Barra saying in a statement that they had a “discussion about how we can work together on policies that support a strong and competitive economy and auto industry, one that supports the environment and safety.”
That last part is particularly important though, as fuel economy and emissions standards put in place during the Obama administration caused many automakers to scramble in order to meet these policies, resulting in fuel-saving features like automatic start/stop and the recent trend toward smaller displacement engines and turbocharging.
Stricter regulations are set to become effective from 2022 to 2025. Earlier this month, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said that his agency, which oversees CAFE regulations, did not see a reason to make any changes to the upcoming rules, much to the dismay of automakers.
“The Obama administration today just made new cars and trucks thousands of dollars more expensive for America’s working men and women,” the National Automobile Dealers Association said in a statement. “We urge the incoming Trump administration to withdraw today’s action.”
Reports indicate that Trump has been receptive to that notion, with the President recently stating, “I am to a large extent an environmentalist. I believe in it, but it’s out of control.”
Many expect sweeping changes for the EPA under Trump’s presidency, and with it, those upcoming regulations may be altered or scrapped altogether. If that were to occur, it would likely have a noticeable effect on the design strategies behind upcoming vehicles from the Big Three.
Will automakers suddenly abandon all of the engineering man hours that have gone into small displacement motors supplemented by forced induction and bring back a naturally aspirated V8 renaissance? That’s unlikely. But easing that burden on automakers may allow them to pursue projects that would otherwise not be feasible.
Considering the fact that high performance models are already a niche market, loosening those regulations may prolong the anticipated demise of industry “dinosaurs” like the small-block V8, and allow automakers an opportunity to improve the already-healthy enthusiast segment that much more. But of course, only time will tell.
Word On The Street is a new column to keep you up to date on what’s going on in the automotive world. We’ll report industry news and highlights on a bi-monthly basis and keep you up to date on modern muscle.