White House to automakers: Back Trump emissions plan or face costly California rules

The White House has issued an us-vs.-them challenge to carmakers: Back an administration plan to roll back fuel-economy standards or risk President Donald Trump’s wrath by siding with California’s stringent emissions requirements.

That message was delivered during a tense conference call between Trump administration officials and auto executives in late February, according to five people familiar with the call who spoke on the condition they not be identified discussing the private conversation.

The administration has terminated months of talks between federal regulators and California officials to maintain a common standard. Automakers have urged the two sides to reach an agreement to avert a legal battle with the state, which covets its unique ability to establish its own emissions rules.

Joining the call for the White House were senior officials with the EPA and NHTSA, one of the people said.