In a move to counter the Biden administration’s push for emission standards and a rapid transition to electric vehicles (EVs), the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Choice in Automobile Retail Sales (CARS) Act with a bipartisan vote of 221-197. Spearheaded by Congressman Tim Walberg of Michigan and Andrew Clyde of Georgia, the legislation aims to curtail what they see as executive overreach by preventing the implementation of regulations that limit consumer choice.
About the CARS Act
The CARS Act specifically targets the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule titled “Multi-Pollutant Emissions Standards for Model Year 2027 and Later Light-Duty and Medium-Duty Vehicles.” This rule, announced in April 2023, sets stringent emissions standards for criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases, projecting that over two-thirds of new vehicles will be electric by 2032.
The legislation seeks to prohibit the EPA from enforcing these proposed rules and, more broadly, prevent regulations that mandate specific technologies or limit vehicle availability based on engine type. Proponents argue that this approach would allow consumers to choose vehicles that better suit their needs, fostering competition among different technologies such as hydrogen, hybrids, and internal combustion engines.
Congressman Walberg emphasised the need to prioritise consumer choice and its impact on the broader auto industry. He referenced a letter from nearly 4,000 car dealers sent to the Biden administration expressing concerns about the lack of demand for EVs. He praised the House’s response as a victory for both consumers and the auto industry.
Criticism of Biden’s EV Strategy
The background of the legislation points to concerns about the accessibility of EVs for the average American consumer. Recent research from CRES Forum reveals that the average EV owner’s household income exceeds $100,000, representing only 31% of U.S. households. This data raises questions about the feasibility of widespread EV adoption, particularly when coupled with rising prices due to supply chain shortages.
Automakers, auto dealers, and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union have echoed these concerns, calling on the Biden administration to adopt a less stringent proposal. In July, the UAW stated that the EPA’s proposal should better reflect the feasibility of compliance, urging a more gradual increase in stringency over an extended period.
As the CARS Act moves to the Senate, the debate over the future of automotive regulations, environmental goals, and consumer choice continues to unfold in the nation’s capital.