A contentious conference call with analysts after Tesla’s earnings announcement sent shares of the electric-car maker sharply lower.
The maker of electric cars expects to idle its assembly line for several days to clear impediments that have held production well below the company’s targets.
On Monday, the Trump administration formally declared that Obama-era fuel economy rules for automobiles were too strict and would likely be weakened in the months ahead.
So how strict are the current rules? While the Obama-era standards for cars and light trucks were on pace to become some of the most aggressive in the world by 2025, they were still less stringent than those set by the European Union, according to an analysis by the International Center on Clean Transportation, which compared standards for different countries.
Fuel Economy Standards for Passenger Cars
Normalized to U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy test cycles
By The New York Times | Source: The International Council on Clean Transportation
Several other countries have modeled their vehicle standards after those in the United States, so a rollback by the Environmental Protection Agency could potentially affect standards across the globe.
In 2012, the Obama administration worked with California to set greenhouse gas and efficiency standards for transportation that aimed to roughly double the average fleetwide fuel economy of new cars, S.U.V.s and light trucks by 2025.
If automakers complied with the rules solely by improving the fuel economy of their engines, new cars and light trucks on the road would average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025 (the charts here break out standards for cars and light trucks separately). But automakers in the United States have some flexibility in meeting these standards. They can, for instance, get credit for using refrigerants in vehicle air-conditioning units that contribute less to global warming, or get credit for selling more electric vehicles.
Once those credits and testing procedures are factored in, analysts expected that new cars and light trucks sold in the United States would have averaged about 36 miles per gallon on the road by 2025 under the Obama-era rules, up from about 24.7 miles per gallon in 2016. Automakers like Tesla that sold electric vehicles also would have benefited from the credit system.
The Obama-era rules were also footprint-based, which means that larger S.U.V.s and light trucks face less stringent standards than smaller passenger cars do — as is true in most countries.
Fuel Economy Standards for Light Trucks
Normalized to U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy test cycles
Canada and the United States define four-wheel drive SUVs and passenger vans as light trucks; other countries count them in the passenger car category. By The New York Times | Source: The International Council on Clean Transportation
In recent years, as gasoline prices have fallen, more Americans have been opting to buy bigger cars and S.U.V.s. That trend has blunted the fuel savings originally projected under the Obama-era rules. Currently, S.U.V.s and light trucks make up a far larger proportion of new vehicle sales in the United States than they do in Europe:
Light Trucks Are a Bigger Share of the American Market
Market share of passenger cars and light trucks in 2016
Light trucks defined by United States standards. By The New York Times | Source: Analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation
When President Trump came into office, automakers asked him to ease the fuel economy standards from 2022 to 2025, which had already been scheduled for a midterm review. The E.P.A. has said that it will start a new rule-making process to set “more appropriate” standards, but has not yet defined the rollback.
One option would be to relax the standards altogether in those years. Another would be to give automakers more leeway in the credits they can earn to comply with the rules. But any major changes could set up a showdown with California, which still has the ability to set its own standards.
If the Trump administration does significantly relax the fuel-economy rules, that could have ripple effects around the world. Canada, for instance, has harmonized its standards with the United States, while Mexico and Saudi Arabia essentially use the United States as a model for their own vehicle rules, albeit with a few years’ lag.
The United States has also become a leader in certain technologies to improve vehicle efficiency, such as using aluminum to reduce the weight of cars and trucks. Ford, for instance, has reduced the weight of its popular F-150 pickup truck by 700 pounds in recent years. If the United States greatly weakens its standards, some of that research could potentially slow down.
The European Union is currently considering a new round of even stricter standards that extend until 2030, while Australia has been exploring new vehicle rules modeled off the United States. “If the U.S. weakens its rules, automakers elsewhere could use that to lobby European and Australian regulators to be less strict,” said Anup Bandivadekar, a researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation.
The investment by Li Shufu, the chairman of the Geely automotive group, represents 9.69 percent of the German carmaker.
While Norway wants to wean its own citizens off fossil fuels, it remains one of the world’s biggest petroleum producers and is revving up exports.
In some American cities, small groups of people are already choosing not to own cars by relying on ride-hailing services like Uber, through which consumers can order a ride through their smartphone, and car-sharing companies like Zipcar, where they essentially pick up a car whenever they need to drive one. Eventually, self-driving cars will be a reality, which would let Uber and others field fleets of driverless vehicles that can operate around the clock and further cut the cost of ride services.
“Ride-sharing has huge potential in terms of shaping the future of mobility,” Shigeki Tomoyama, senior managing officer of Toyota, said in a statement about partnering with Uber. “We would like to explore new ways of delivering secure, convenient and attractive mobility services to customers.”
Karl Brauer, an analyst at the research firm Kelley Blue Book, said there was no sign that car-sharing or ride-sharing — sometimes called “mobility services” — was slowing auto sales today. Auto sales in the United States hit a record high in 2015 and are on the rise this year, and China and other international markets will ensure the global auto market continues to grow.
Nevertheless, auto companies are investing in companies like Uber “to be ahead of the curve” if they do shake up car ownership down the road, Mr. Brauer said. “History has shown that if you wait for the market to decide, you’re dead,” he said.
In January, General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft, the ride-hailing app popular with American users, with a focus on developing networks of autonomous vehicles. Ford Motor is making over its Dearborn, Mich., headquarters into a Silicon Valley-like campus of green buildings connected by self-driving shuttles.
And a few weeks ago, Fiat Chrysler and Google agreed to produce a test fleet of driverless minivans. Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz have started to pilot ride services.
Even other technology companies only tangentially related to automobiles are becoming more involved in ride services. Apple, which is working on its own autos project, said this month it had invested $1 billion in Didi Chuxing, a Chinese ride-hailing company that competes fiercely with Uber.
The scale of ride-hailing as a phenomenon is encapsulated in China. Uber operates in more than 30 Chinese cities with plans to expand to 100 by the end of the year. Didi is in well over 300 cities and towns throughout the country.
Last June, Uber said it had approximately 20,000 regular drivers in the Chinese city of Chengdu alone, on par with the approximately 22,000 drivers in San Francisco and 26,000 in New York at the time.
But global expansion requires capital — lots of it. Companies like Uber have tapped venture capitalists, strategic partners and large institutional investors at the rate of about once every six months to amass enough money to keep introducing operations in new cities. In total, Uber has raised more than $10 billion from several firms to wage its land war across multiple continents.
With the Toyota partnership, Uber gets other perks apart from money. The company, based in San Francisco, which was valued at $62.5 billion in December, plans to expand its vehicle financing program with Toyota, whose cars are among the most popular with Uber drivers. Customers can lease Toyota vehicles through the program and are able to pay down the cost by driving for Uber.
Toyota said that in its work with Uber, the companies would also cooperate on trials in countries where ride-hailing is growing.
The companies also plan to develop in-car apps that support Uber drivers, and to share their knowledge and research, they said.
Volkswagen has been slower to jump on the mobility bandwagon, partly because it has been consumed by an emission-cheating scandal involving its diesel models. After those revelations, Volkswagen replaced its chief executive, about a dozen top managers departed, its VW-brand sales skidded in the United States and it set aside $18 billion to cover scandal-related costs.
Next month, Volkswagen is supposed to detail a plan to buy back or repair about 500,000 diesel models that had the cheating software and were sold in the United States.
About the same time, Volkswagen is also planning to unveil a “Strategy 2025” in which mobility initiatives will play major roles. In April, Volkswagen said it intended to set up a separate mobility company to oversee investments and initiatives on this front.
“We aim to become a world leading mobility provider by 2025,” Matthias Müller, chief executive of Volkswagen, said in a statement.
Shahar Waiser, Gett’s chief executive, stressed the synchronicity his company had with Volkswagen’s European sales, and how the companies were focused on both consumer and business clients. Mr. Waiser said Gett had $500 million in revenue, 30 percent of which came from the company’s 4,000 corporate and business clients, and that it was profitable in some markets.
Gett, which is popular in more than 60 European cities, as well as Moscow and New York, said it planned to use the capital to continue expanding its European operations.
“By now, people realize that the landscape is so big — and every market is so different — there will be more than a monopoly or a duopoly,” Mr. Waiser said. “You will always see two, maybe three major players in this space, wherever you go.”