According to emails obtained by The Detroit News, the Obama administration reached out to the Detroit automakers about proposed fuel economy regulations before conferring with foreign car makers. The documents also show the White House pushed to get the regulations finalized by June 30, a full month earlier than the actual deal.
"We also believe that we need to do outreach to all of the other major manufacturers prior to determining stringencies on or before June 30," senior Transportation Department aide Kathryn Thomson wrote to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland and senior EPA official Gina McCarthy in a June 15 email. "However we believe that these discussions should take place at a much more general level and should convey what we propose the stringencies might be after engaging the Detroit 3."
Thomson's email also indicates the U.S. warned the automakers to keep the talks a secret.
"They need to treat these discussions as confidential and that their failure to do so jeopardizes our ability to engage them and be flexible in setting the standards," she wrote.
The emails give credence to complaints lodged by foreign automakers last year that the Obama administration wasn't treating them fairly.
"We have been pushing the administration to recognize the fact that our members play a very solid financial, economic role in this so we made that point over and over again,"ť Mike Stanton, president and CEO of Global Automakers, a trade group representing major foreign automakers, told The Detroit News.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has begun to investigate the matter and has already obtained thousands of pages of records concerning the secret talks from 13 major automakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. The committee is also looking into an incident that involved the White House directly contacting Ford CEO Alan Mulally.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has labeled the talks as "unbalanced in favor of selected auto manufacturers."
The Obama administration was pushing a 56.2mpg standard by 2025, but ultimately reduced it to 54.5mpg after talks with Ford, Chrysler and General Motors.